U.S. Mideast Envoy: Trump Hopes to Decide Soon on When to Publish Peace Plan

Conflict can't be solved using international law, envoy argues, sparking strong rebuttals from UN Security Council members

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt at a UN Security Council meeting in New York, February 20, 2018.
Lucas Jackson/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump hopes to decide soon on when to release a plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. 

"President Trump has not yet decided when we will release the political portion of the plan, and we hope to make that decision soon," he said. 

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While Greenblatt did not reveal any details of the "60-or-so" page plan, he said the conflict could not be solved using global consensus, international law and references to UN resolutions – sparking strong rebuttals from council members. 

"For us, international law is not menu a la carte," Germany's UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told the Security Council. 

"There are other instances where U.S. representatives here insist on international law, insist on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, for instance on North Korea," Heusgen said. 

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia and Britain's UN Ambassador Karen Pierce echoed Heusgen's remarks. 

"Security Council resolutions are international law, they merely need to be complied with," Nebenzia said. 

The U.S. Middle East proposal has two major components - a political piece that addresses core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to strengthen the Palestinian economy. Kushner and Greenblatt have not said if it calls for a two-state solution, a goal of past peace efforts. 

Greenblatt, along with Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, unveiled in June the economic component of Trump's long-touted peace plan in a conference in Bahrain.

"A comprehensive and lasting peace will not be created by fiat of international law or by these heavily wordsmithed, unclear resolutions," Greenblatt said. "The vision for peace that we plan to present will not be ambiguous, unlike many resolutions that have passed in this chamber." 

He said it would provide enough detail for people to see "what compromises will be necessary to achieve a realistic, lasting, comprehensive solution to this conflict." 

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the White House after Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year, have said  they would reject any peace plan proposed by the U.S, because they regard Trump as unfairly biased toward Israel.

Greenblatt called on the Palestinians "to put aside blanket rejections of a plan they have not even seen" and show a willingness to engage in talks with Israel. He also urged the Security Council to encourage the parties back to the negotiating table. 

Nebenzia suggested a visit by the Security Council to the region was overdue and could be helpful. The United States has long objected to a council visit, which has to be agreed by consensus, diplomats said. 

'The port of Beirut is now the port of Hezbollah'

Greenblatt addressed the council following a speech by Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who said that Iran has been "exploiting" the civilian sea port of Beirut to transfer weapons and dual-use items to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, in violation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War and limits Hezbollah's activity in southern Lebanon.

Citing intelligence gathered by Israel, Danon said that "the port of Beirut is now the port of Hezbollah." He urged UN members to ensure companies based in their countries do not sell "dual-use" items to Hezbollah under the guise of legitimate shipments, saying they are eventually used to bolster Hezbollah's missile capabilities and enhance the Iranian "force of chaos" in the region.

"Dual-use" items those with both civilian and military applications.

Ambassador Danny Danon speaks at the UN Security Council, July 23, 2019.
Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN

On Monday, Haaretz reported that Israeli officials believe Iran is working to transfer weaponry to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon by sea, to avoid assaults that have targeted arms shipments.

According to their assessments, recent attacks, some of which attributed to Israel, that were designed to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria and transferring equipment to Lebanon have led the Iranians to prefer shipping a portion of the weaponry by sea.