Palestinian Ambassador to UN on challenges in the Trump era
Liling Tan, CGTN

As people around the world marked solidarity with the Palestinian people, the State of Palestine faces new challenges in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The decision by the U.S. to recognize Israeli settlements as legal was just the most recent move in a string of pro-Israel U.S. policy shifts that have shocked the international community and threatened prospects for peace and the two-state solution.

It came after the U.S. formally recognized contested Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy there. Washington has also ended its financial support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA.                                                      

Liling Tan spoke to Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour to discuss the issues.


Liling Tan: Mr. Ambassador, let's start with the most recent development. The U.S. has declared that it is recognizing settlement activity in the West Bank as internationally legitimate, effectively reversing four decades of U.S. policy. What message does that send?

Riyad Mansour: It's very unfortunate that this is additional free gift to be given to the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu just only few days before he was indicted. 

I don't believe it was a smart move, in addition to the fact that it is illegal, unilateral and rejected totally by the international community.

Liling Tan: Can you recall a time in your tenure when the peace process seemed so much out of reach as it is now, and how much of this has to do with the Trump administration's Middle East policy?

Riyad Mansour: The first year of President Trump, he was telling everyone including us when we had meetings with them at that time that within a few months he would be able to resolve this issue. So that raised some hope.

But when it came to the implementation and the details, what he did, he complicated - and his team - complicated the situation more and pushed us further away from peace.

Because when you give Jerusalem for free, and you give the refugees for free and you try to destroy UNRWA for free and you legitimize settlements for free, then there is no incentive for Prime Minister Netanyahu or whoever will be leading Israel to come and negotiate.

And that is a complete violation of the book that was written by President Trump about the Art of the Deal.

Liling Tan: In this climate, the fate of Palestinians remains in limbo, made worse by political uncertainty now gripping Israel. After two dead-locked elections this year, and a failure to form a government with opposition leader Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just been indicted for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Riyad Mansour: We don't know exactly what will happen to him, but there's a possibility that he might end up in jail. 

So therefore you know there is confusion in the political system in Israel. If we see a new government maybe led by General Gantz, if they are ready and willing to listen closely to the position of the international community and start working with it in a reasonable way, then perhaps some doors will be open.

The same thing in Washington D.C. If we have partners in Washington to emerge from the elections who would look at these things in a positive way, and we sincerely hope that would be the case, then perhaps after the American elections and the Israeli situation is sorted out, we sincerely hope there would be doors open to move very quickly in the direction of ending this occupation and the suffering of our people.