NEW YORK — Foreign ministers and diplomats from about 40 countries and representatives of international organizations on Wednesday evening attended a conference organized by the Palestinian mission to the United Nations in a bid to promote alternatives to the US administration’s expected peace proposal.
The event, which was closed to the press, was held amid a deepening rift between Ramallah and Washington due to the Palestinian refusal to engage with American officials after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The foreign dignitaries present “responded positively to our invitation and have this kind of dialogue with us about the best way forward in terms of how to salvage the two-state solution, and to find ways of how to overcome the current obstacles that were put in front of this process, both by the American administration and the Israeli government,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said during a press conference that followed the two-hour conference.
Earlier on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump for the first time expressed his support for a two-state solution, but also said he would be “okay” with a one-state solution, if both Israelis and Palestinians agreed to it.
“Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me,” he said. “If they want two states, that’s okay with me. I’m happy, if they’re happy,” Trump said at a press conference.
“I’m a facilitator. I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore,” the US president said. Trump said that reaching a two-state solution is “more difficult because it’s a real estate deal” but that ultimately it “works better because you have people governing themselves.”
He also promised that the long-awaited peace plan that was being crafted by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has been working on the Middle East portfolio, would be “very fair.”
“He loves Israel but he’s also going to be very fair with the Palestinians,” Trump said during the 84-minute long press conference.
He said the plan could be released soon, even though the Palestinians are currently boycotting the Americans over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, moving the US embassy there, and the cuts in US aid to Ramallah.
“I would say over the next two to three to four months,” Trump said, referring to his prospective timetable for presenting a plan.
He went on, “I think probably two-state is more likely, but you know what? I think if they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it, if they’re both happy.”
Malki said he was unimpressed with Trump’s ostensible endorsement of Palestinian statehood.
“We heard that same statement when he first met Netanyahu [at the White House in February 2017]. It seems that every time he meets with Netanyahu he repeats the same statement, there is nothing new about it,” he said, speaking in English.
“He has to come forward and say yes to the two-state solution based on the 67 borders, that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are occupied territories. These are important statements that President Trump has to say in order convince anyone that he is committed to real peace in our region,” Malki said.
“Everybody knows that the current American admission has waged an open war against the Palestinian people,” he charged.
The Palestinians are “not looking for confrontation,” he added, but view the Trump administration as biased in favor of Israel and therefore are eager to recruit the international community to take a more active role in the peace process.
“One of the main objectives of this meeting was to allow for this collective process… to start picking up momentum,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is set to address the UN General Assembly on Thursday, minutes before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak from the same podium, is proposing a multilateral system to ensure that “no one single country can dominate the political process,” Mansour said.
“We want a collective process,” he said.
During Wednesday’s conference, all participating dignitaries endorsed the two-state solution and “reiterated the parameters [of the peace process] as we know them, and as agreed upon by everyone, and expressed willingness to allow this collective process to continue,” he added.
The event, which took place in a relatively small and somber, windowless room in midtown Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt hotel, was attended by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Ireland, Japan, UK Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt, and diplomats from a host of other countries, such as Germany, Norway, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.
The UN was represented by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo.
Israel and the US were not invited to the event.
Incidentally, at the same time as the Palestinian conference, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a interfaith organization founded by renowned Rabbi Arthur Schneier, held its annual awards dinner at the same hotel.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin delivered the keynote address and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, received the organization’s “World Leader Award.”
The lavish dinner was attended by ex-foreign minister of Egypt Amr Moussa, Qatari diplomat Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and several former prime ministers and presidents of various countries around the globe.