Abbas, who renewed his call for an international conference this year to seek a Mideast accord, has vowed not to meet with U.S. officials until the Jerusalem embassy decision is reversed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem a “dangerous” development in a speech before the United Nations, then walked out before U.S. envoy Nikki Haley retorted that “we will not chase after you.”
The encounter Tuesday before the Security Council reflected the tensions in U.S.-Palestinian relations since Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and his administration’s cuts in UN refugee funds for the Palestinians. Haley was accompanied at the UN by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser on Israel-Palestinian peace efforts, and by Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.
Read more: Understanding the Jerusalem controversy
“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” Abbas said, adding he hoped “to find a way out of the stalemate and crisis we are in.”
However, he finished his address with a warning — which others may read as a threat — of violence unless the U.S. restores funds that were cut to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which administers to millions of Palestinian refugees.
“If you end your assistance they become terrorists or refugees in Europe,” Abbas said. “It’s either that or you continue to support UNRWA until the crisis ends. We are ready to begin negotiations. We beg you to help us so that we may not commit an act that goes against our beliefs and your beliefs.”
The Palestinian leader immediately left the Security Council after concluding his speech without waiting to hear Haley’s response.
His departure was denounced by Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon, who said, “Every time there’s an inch of progress, Mr. Abbas runs away.” In comments issued by his office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Abbas offered nothing new” while “he continues to pay terrorists and their families $347 million.”
Haley, who also noted Abbas’s absence but addressed her remarks to him anyway, said the Palestinians don’t have to like Trump’s decision on Jerusalem but “that decision will not change.”
She said the U.S. offers an “outstretched hand” to the Palestinian people but “we will not chase after you” and “the choice is yours.”
Related story: Trump Offering ‘Fake Jerusalem,’ Palestinians Charge
In a statement, Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman, dismissed Abbas’s plans for an international conference and full UN membership for a Palestinian state as “old talking points and undeveloped concepts” and instead pledged to “continue working on our plan, which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”
At the UN, which Haley said Tuesday is “grossly biased” against Israel, the U.S. remains at odds with most members.
In December, 14 of the 15 Security Council members voted to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy, forcing Haley to use the first veto of the Trump administration to block the resolution. A few days later the 193-member General Assembly voted 128-9 to condemn the U.S. move, with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows.
The UN granted Palestine the status of a non-member observer state in 1992. An upgrade to full membership would require unanimous backing from the Security Council, and the U.S. would veto such a move.
Abbas, 82, is fighting to raise millions for the UNRWA to make up for the U.S. cuts. The Trump administration agreed last month to pay $60 million to the aid organization for salaries and other administrative costs, while cutting $65 million. It also reneged on a pledge to contribute $45 million in food aid, health services and other relief. The agency has initiated an $800 million fundraising effort.
“Abbas doesn’t think he has much to lose by trying to get the international community involved,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “We are headed for a showdown as this is probably the last gasp of the peace process.”
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