Pledging she “will not shut up,” US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday that the Trump administration will not change its decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
But her message at the UN Security Council went unheard by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who opted to leave the chamber prior to Haley’s remarks.
Abbas exited the meeting shortly after he addressed the Security Council – calling out the US for failing to clarify its stance on a two-state solution and keeping the Palestine Liberation Organization on the terror watch list.
“We met with the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, four times in 2017, and we have expressed our absolute readiness to reach a historic peace agreement,” Abbas said in a rare appearance before the Security Council.
“Yet, this administration has not clarified its position. Is it for the two-state solution or the one-state solution?” he added.
Joined by Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Haley’s speech was designed to deliver a direct message 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.”
According to Haley, that choice consists of two different paths.
“There is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people,” Haley said.
“Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan, including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership, if only it is courageous enough to take it,” she added.
Haley also took the opportunity to respond to comments made earlier this month by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who said she should “shut up” with her criticism of Abbas.
“I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saeb Erekat. I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths,” Haley said.
But Abbas – who left the room after addressing the council – was not present to hear Haley’s comments.
“I expected Mr. Abbas to stay with us and have a dialogue, unfortunately he’s once again running away,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said.
“Look what just happened in this room. Mr. Abbas came in, he put his demands on the table, and he left, and he’s expecting you to deliver the results. It’s not going to work that way. The only way to move forward is to have direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.
During his remarks, Abbas told the council that the Palestinians have not “rejected negotiations” and believe talks are the only path to peace.
White House spokesman Josh Raffel said that the administration was hoping to hear some new ideas from Abbas and noted the “recognition that Jerusalem is holy to Jews in addition to Muslims and Christians is a step in the right direction.”
“But as Ambassador Haley warned, setting forth old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues will not achieve peace,” Raffel added. “We are trying to do the opposite and will continue working on our plan which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”
Chances of a peace agreement have seemed particularly dim since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the administration’s decision to move the US embassy there in December – a decision that will not change, Haley said Tuesday.
“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” Haley said.
“You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change,” she added.
The United States’ role as a broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has come under fire following the decision. Top Palestinian officials condemned the move, saying it disqualified the US from playing the role of arbiter. The United Nations voted overwhelmingly to condemn the decision.
There is broad international consensus that the issue of Jerusalem’s status should be resolved mutually toward the very end of negotiations. Many saw the US move as potentially prejudicing the outcome, though the administration has insisted that should not be the case.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their historic capital.
Abbas slammed the embassy move as “unlawful” during his own remarks.
“In a dangerous, unprecedented manner, this administration undertook an unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community to remove the issue of Jerusalem off the table without any reason,” he said.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked whether the US decision on Jerusalem complicated his work and made the pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace even more difficult.
He did not answer the question, but earlier in the news conference, he had said, “the decision taken on Jerusalem was about the United States and our recognition of Jerusalem and where we choose to place our embassy, but the President was clear also on his statement … that the final status, the final borders in Jerusalem, are up to the parties to decide. So it does not preclude a two-state solution.”
Tillerson also said that the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan is “fairly well advanced” after several months of work, though he offered no details on when the proposal might be unveiled or what it might contain.
Earlier this month, Trump also declined to give a timeline for releasing the US plan for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, telling an Israeli newspaper that he is not convinced that either party is committed to the process.
“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace,” Trump said. “So we are just going to have to see what happens.” he told Israel Hayom.
CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report