United Nations: The failed appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as the UN’s peace envoy to Libya has shown that divisions over Palestine still run deep at the world body.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ pick as his special representative in Libya, was quickly vetoed by US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday February 10.
Haley said on Friday that the US was “disappointed” to see a letter indicating Fayyad would be appointed for the role.
By Monday, Fayyad was no longer under consideration.
In Dubai on Monday, Guterres described the turn of events as a “loss for the Libyan peace process,” describing Fayyad as “the right person for the right job at the right moment.”
Guterres also noted the importance of appointment given the ongoing instability in Libya.
“Let’s not forget that Libya is not only relevant in itself, Libya has been a factor of contamination to the peace and stability in a wide area, namely in Africa, in the Sahel and to bring an end to the conflict in Libya is in everybody’s interest.”
However few if any conflicts have remained on the UN’s agenda as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Indications that the Palestinian question – as it is referred to in UN Security Council meetings – may become a source of tension between the United Nations and the Trump – Republican administration began before Trump had taken office.
On December 22, the US under then President Barack Obama allowed Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements to pass by abstaining – the resolution was supported by the 14 other Security Council members, including US allies such as New Zealand, the UK and France.
The resolution stated that “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity.”
In an apparent break from protocol for a President-elect, Donald Trump appeared to respond to the vote on December 23 with a Tweet stating: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20”.
Haley later described the resolution as “a terrible mistake,” in her confirmation hearing for the role of US ambassador to the UN.
Following the vote Israel passed a law on February 6 retrospectively recognising Jewish settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied territories.
Kofi Annan, chair of The Elders and former UN secretary-general, described the law as “highly damaging” to “prospects for peace.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu should show leadership to overturn this law, paying heed to the objections of Israel’s attorney general, broad segments of Israeli society and members of his own Likud Party,” said Annan.
The US has remained Israel’s closest ally both for strategic reasons as a partner in the Middle East and due to domestic support for Israel. This support comes in part from the US’s Jewish population. While the current administration supports Israel, their support for Judaism is less clear, after the White House failed to refer to Jews or Judaism in its statement issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Meanwhile support for Israel also comes from groups such as Christians United for Israel who say on their website that they have over 3 million members. The group’s website homepage also includes a pop-up campaign calling to defund the UN.
The US provides 22% of the UN budget, making it the largest single member state contributor.
There is yet to be any concrete indication from either Trump or Haley that the US intends to reduce US funding to the UN other than through a leaked draft executive order published by some media outlets.
However some Republican lawmakers have been more open in their opposition to the UN’s seeming sympathy towards Palestine, presenting a Bill, which has not yet passed, to withhold US funding to the UN until Resolution 2334 has been repealed.
Palestine has been a non-member observer state at the UN since 2012. In a symbolic gesture, the UN began flying the Palestinian flag in September 2015, alongside the Holy See – Vatican – which is also an observer state.