Haley Talks Tough at the U.N.

Jewish Light Editorial

Once again, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has delivered a passionate and well-reasoned speech to the Security Council that included a pointed attack on Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. She said Abbas lacks the courage and the desire to seek peace in the Middle East. She’s right.

Haley assailed Abbas for a recent speech he gave to the Palestinian Central Council that attacked President Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In his speech, Abbas angrily said that the landmark Oslo Accords, the framework for Israeli-Palestinian relations, was “dead” and he repeatedly called out Trump, at one point declaring: “Shame on you.”

In response, Haley’s remarks reaffirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution “if agreed to by the parties” and for the American commitment to a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. She focused on what she termed “the single most critical element to achieving peace.” 

“No,” Haley said, “it’s not the issues of security, borders, refugees or settlements. All of those are important parts of a peace agreement. But the single most important element is not any of those. The indispensable element is leaders who have the will to do what’s needed to achieve peace.”

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Haley’s speech coincided with Trump’s remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he lambasted Abbas for having “disrespected” the United States after he snubbed Vice President Mike Pence during his trip to the Middle East. 

At Davos, Trump had a cordial meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader praised the White House for its announcement on Jerusalem, which he said will “push forward” steps toward peace.

Trump also warned Abbas that the United States could stop funding the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East if the Palestinians refused to return to the peace talks.

The United States is the largest donor that supports Palestinian refugees and their descendants, contributing about one-third of its budget, or more than $365 million a year.

“That money is on the table,” Trump said on the sidelines of the Davos conference, “and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.” 

If Abbas wants to achieve his stated goal of an independent State of Palestine with membership in the United Nations, he must act in accordance with the U.N. Charter and join the officially sanctioned peace process. If the Palestinian Authority loses its major financial support because of his stubborn refusal to become an honest peace partner, he will have only himself to blame.

Emphasizing what is at stake, Haley told the Security Council that Abbas had “insulted the American president”  and rejected the role of the United States in peace talks. For such talks to succeed, the time for delays and empty rhetoric is long past.  As Haley put it:

“Real peace requires leaders who are willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths and make compromises. It requires leaders who look to the future, rather than dwell on past resentments.”

Haley noted that Abbas had acknowledged opposition to his position from other Arab leaders but that rather than take a conciliatory, statesmanlike approach, Abbas’ response amounted to saying “get lost.”

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” she said.

Comparing Abbas with Arab leaders of the past such as Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein, she said attitudes must change for peace to result.

“We will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace,” Haley said. “To get historic results, we need courageous leaders. History has provided such leaders in the past. For the sake of the Palestinian and Israeli people, we pray it does so again.”

Abbas must heed the warnings spelled out so clearly and so eloquently by Ambassador Haley and return to the peace table before he runs out of time as well as money.  The ball is in his court.