The Palestinians are pushing for a UN Security Council resolution demanding that the US rescind its declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
Fourteen of the council’s 15 members condemned the move in an emergency meeting in New York on Friday, which was also attended by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour.
“We will come back to the Security Council,” Mansour said.
Movement on a Jerusalem resolution will be taken after Saturday’s meeting of the Arab League in Cairo and Wednesday’s summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Turkey, he said.
The Palestinians plan to ask the Security Council to reaffirm past resolutions against Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and to demand that the US rescind its statement.
“We are satisfied that there are 14 countries in the Security Council that are defending international law, defending Security Council resolutions as they relate to Jerusalem and rejecting the unilateral, illegal decisions by President Trump two days ago,” Mansour said.
The matter is likely to return soon to the Security Council, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told the Russian news agency TASS.
Passage of a resolution would be difficult, however, given that the US is one of five council members with veto power.
Mansour said that the US statement, including its decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, was a “grave breach” of international law and past Security Council resolutions.
“The US decision to reward Israel’s impunity, undermines and essentially disqualifies its leadership role to seek peace in the region,” he said.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov warned of escalating violence and a possible end to the peace process.
“There is a serious risk today that the parties may walk away from the negotiating table, that this will spark a chain of unilateral actions, which can only undermine the achievement of our shared goal,” he said.
If the conflict cannot be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution in a manner that meets the national aspirations of both peoples, he said, “it risks being engulfed into the vortex of religious radicalism throughout the Middle East.”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley defended her government’s position, explaining that “in 1995, the US Congress declared that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and that the American Embassy should be located in Jerusalem.
“Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama all agreed with that position, but they did not act. They delayed, in the hopes that a peace process would produce results – results that never came,” Haley said.
“For 22 years, the American people have overwhelmingly supported that position, and they have waited... and waited. This week, President Trump finally made the decision to no longer deny the will of the American people.”
The US has “not taken a position on boundaries or borders,” she added. “The specific dimensions of sovereignty over Jerusalem are still to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians in negotiations. The United States has not advocated changing any of the arrangements at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The president specifically called for maintaining the status quo at the holy sites,” she said.
US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, she said, does not predetermine “final-status issues. We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”
To those who use the decision to engage in violence, she said, “you are only showing yourselves to be unfit partners of peace.”
She also charged that the UN had damaged rather than advanced efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It is no coincidence that the historic peace agreements between Egypt and Israel, and between Jordan and Israel, were both signed on the White House lawn. If and when there is a historic peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, there’s a good likelihood that it, too, will be signed on the White House lawn,” Haley said.
“Peace remains achievable. We must all do our parts to achieve it.”
Danon thanked the US for its support and its declaration on Jerusalem.
He held up a coin from the period of the Second Temple, when Jerusalem was the capital of the ancient Jewish state. “I have here a replica of an ancient coin found on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” he said. “It is dated from the year 67 AD during the time of the second Jewish temple. The words ‘Jerusalem the holy’ are written on it.
“Only three years later, in the year 70 AD, would our holy temple be destroyed and the Jewish people sent into exile for 2,000 years,” Danon said.
Since then, Jews have prayed to return, uttering the words, “Next year in Jerusalem,” he explained. “Seventy years ago, the Jewish people came home to Jerusalem.”
Now the nations of the world should join the Jewish people, “this year in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel,” he said.
After Friday’s meeting, representatives from Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy called on the US to put forward detailed proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, calling the US’s actions “unhelpful” to the peace process.
“We stand ready to contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, leading to a two-state solution,” they said. “We encourage the US administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement.”Reuters contributed to this report.