Haley to Abbas: US wants a peace deal but will not ‘chase after you’
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Haley to Abbas: US wants a peace deal but will not ‘chase after you’

Hitting back at top Palestinian negotiator, Washington's envoy to United Nations tells Saeb Erekat 'I will not shut up'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

WASHINGTON — US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday said Washington would not “chase” the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Israel, following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN Security Council.

Speaking in front of US President Donald Trump’s top two Middle East peace negotiators — Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt — Abbas excoriated the US president’s decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion plans to move the the US embassy there, characterizing it as “an unlawful decision.”

Abbas then called for a multilateral international effort to secure Palestinian statehood, thus removing the US from its traditional role as the key mediator in negotiations.

The White House, however, said shortly after his remarks that it still planned to push ahead with finalizing its peace plan and presenting it at a later date.

Washington “will continue working on our plan, which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” said Josh Raffel, an administration spokesman. “We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council, on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Haley also addressed the Security Council Tuesday. Although Abbas left the chamber after his speech, she dedicated a sizable portion of her time addressing the PA leader.

“The United States stands ready to work with the Palestinian leadership,” she said to Abbas. “Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.”

Earlier in her speech, she referenced the top Palestinian negotiator’s admonishment of her earlier this month that she should “shut up.”

“I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator Saeb Erekat,” she said. “I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths.”

Haley told the Palestinians they had two choices: either go on a “path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence” or a “path of negotiation and compromise.” The latter, she said, “remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.”

“You can choose to denounce the United States, reject its role in peace talks, and pursue punitive measures against Israel in international forums like the UN. I assure that path will get the Palestinian people exactly nowhere toward the achievement of their aspirations,” she went on. “Or you can choose to put aside your anger about the location of our embassy and move forward with us toward a negotiated compromise that holds great potential for improving the lives of the Palestinian people.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN also castigated Abbas for his speech, saying it revealed the Palestinian leader as obstructing peace efforts.

“You have made it clear, with your words and with your actions, that you are no longer part of the solution. You are the problem,” Danny Danon told Abbas while speaking before the Security Council.

Meanwhile, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that ongoing Israeli settlement construction was corroding the possibility a Palestinian state’s formation.

“The global consensus for a two-state solution could be eroding,” he said, adding that “obstacles on the ground” are increasingly preventing its realization.

The UN envoy also rejected Israeli settlement construction as a government response to recent deadly terror attacks on Israeli civilians in the West Bank.

“Settlement construction is not a morally appropriate way to respond to murder,” he said.

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