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Palestinians fear UN roadblock

The leader of the Arab group at the UN, Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim, and Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour met with the President of the UN Security Council (UNSC) Wednesday evening to appeal for international action against Israel’s plans for expansion of its settlement policy, which includes plans for an entirely new settlement — which would be the first in two decades.

Mansour told reporters that the “illegal behavior by an occupying power” must be stopped.

The Council passed a resolution in late December describing the settlements as having “no legal validity.”

The Arab diplomats said the Security Council President Volodymyr Yelchenko told them he will raise their complaints to the full Council Thursday, and that they expect to meet with UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Security Council presidency rotates on a monthly basis. The current holder is Ukraine.

Trump support for Israel

President Donald Trump has not commented publicly on the ramp-up of settlements but has promised strong support for Israel in various tweets.

Getting formal action will be difficult for the Palestinians because of the change in the US government. The US Mission to the UN Tuesday described a December Security Council resolution condemning settlement activity that passed because of a US abstention, entered by the Obama administration, as “disastrous.”

Mansour repeated previous comments that the Council must “shoulder its responsibilities,” that he expects the Council to stop Israeli behavior as “they are a member of the United Nations.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, was defiant in the face of the Palestinian officials’ complaints to the UNSC.

“The ongoing attempts of the Palestinians to spread lies and to damage Israel at the UN will not frighten us,” he said.

“The real obstacle to negotiations is Palestinian refusal and incitement. Instead of handing out candies in the streets after terror attacks, it is the duty of the Palestinians to stop terror and incitement.”

Mansour said he has requested a meeting with new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

A New York Times story recently reported the Trump administration was preparing executive orders that would cut Washington funding for any UN agency that has Palestinian membership. Mansour declined to comment on the report but expressed his hopes that he “meet with the US Ambassador as soon as possible”.

Haley has already spoken with Israel’s ambassador — the meeting was one the incoming official conducted upon arriving at the UN last week.

The Arab diplomats said they raised the two-state solution in the meeting with Yelchenko, the Security Council’s president.

Mansour said the problem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not what he says but what he does,” referring to the declared expansion of settlements. He said Netanyahu is destroying the two-state solution with these actions.

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