On Friday night, the United States blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of the U.N. mission in Libya, UNSMIL, a decision shared by the other 14 members of the Security Council. This is not a gift to the Israeli government ahead of the Feb. 15 meeting between Trump and Netanyahu. It is rather a political decision of exceptional reach (indicative of a very precise course of action).
In essence, the Trump administration is saying it does not recognize the U.N. resolutions on the Palestinian state approved in recent years, starting with the admission of Palestine as a non-member state in the General Assembly.
Nikki Haley, a champion of the far right appointed as the new ambassador to the United Nations, was explicit when she said the administration was “disappointed” by the decision of Secretary General Antonio Guterres to appoint Fayyad as his special envoy to Libya.
“For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” and the U.S. does not approve of the signal that Fayyad’s appointment would send, she said.
Blocking the appointment of the former prime minister means saying no to the recognition of the Palestinians as a people with rights and with international status. Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., was ecstatic. “This is the beginning of a new era at the U.N., where the U.S. strongly supports Israel against any attempts to harm the Jewish state,” he said.
America’s move must not have pleased Rome. By blocking Fayyad’s appointment, the U.N. mission in Libya could remain in limbo at a delicate time, after the recent progress achieved by outgoing envoy Martin Kobler.
The American decision is also significant considering Fayyad’s background. We’re not talking about a PLO leader or former leader of the Palestinian resistance. He is not even a political activist. Fayyad is an economist. He has worked all his life with the West, with international financial institutions and with the Americans.
He has close relationships with the Gulf petromonarchies, U.S. allies, and he is a friend of the Egyptians. He was appointed Palestinian prime minister mostly due to pressure from Washington.
Guterres is counting on his dense network of contacts and friends to try to ease the fractures preventing a political solution in Libya.
Trump and his staff of hawks must have thought the post was too prestigious for a Palestinian. They are committed to minimizing the importance of Palestine and to go along with the policies of Netanyahu’s government.
The Palestinians are befuddled. “The action of Ambassador Nikki Haley is inconceivable,” protested Hanan Ashrawi, representative of the PLO Executive Committee. “It is a challenge to logic because Salam Fayyad is the most qualified candidate for that position. His appointment was blocked because it was perceived as detrimental to Israel. … It is simply absurd.”
However, it is not absurd. It is the reality the Palestinians will be confronted with for at least four years. So far, they have not elaborated yet any concrete countermeasures and a credible strategy to combat those who want to deny their rights.
The left is calling on on President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to come to terms with reality and to act accordingly. “Abu Mazen must stop thinking of the United States as a critical element to the realization of our rights,” Parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told il manifesto. “The United States have never been an honest broker. It has always favored its Israeli allies. Trump is just a more extreme version of a line that has lasted for decades.”
According to Jarrar, the leaders of the Palestinian political movements are called to resolve their internal divisions and to ask the International Criminal Court in The Hague to take action against Israel.
“The Palestinians must be able to give up the financial aid coming from the United States, which is later used to blackmail us and limit and block our political choices,” he said.