White House officials have asserted that President Donald Trump's administration is prepared to take an aggressive posture against Palestine in the United Nations (UN) to best represent Israel's interests. The first signal was the Trump administration's retraction of support for the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to represent Libya.
On Feb. 10, U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the Trump administration would no longer back Fayyad's appointment as the special representative for Libya. The appointment had previously been supported by the U.S., with the subsequent retraction catching American allies by surprise.
"For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel," Haley said in an official statement. "The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations, however, we encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution."
Fayyad's appointment would have been the most senior post for a Palestinian in the UN to date. The former prime minister's record of reform in Palestine had been heralded by U.S. allies in the UN. Anonymous officials within the Trump administration have asserted that Haley's decision to block his appointment sends a signal that the U.S. will oppose Palestine in the UN to the benefit of Israel.
"The appointment of Salam Fayyad as the official UN envoy to Libya would be an incremental step towards unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood by the UN absent an agreement with Israel," one White House source told The Washington Free Beacon.
A senior congressional aide added that the Trump administration is prepared to push back on what it perceives to be an anti-Israel bias in the UN.
"Our new administration is already pushing back against the UN's rampant bias and reasserting America's strong support for Israel," the congressional aide said.
A senior official of a national pro-Israel organization accused the UN's appointment Fayyad of being "a clever way to mainstream the Palestinians as legitimate state actors ... They figured that the Trump White House would be too worried about optics to take a stand on behalf of our Israeli allies. The White House refused to be intimidated."
Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon praised the Trump administration's retraction of their endorsement of Fayyad.
"The new administration proved once again that it stands firmly alongside the State of Israel in the international arena and in the UN in particular," Dannon said, according to CNN.
The move incensed other U.S. allies, who had found Fayyad to be qualified for the position. The reversal had also alarmed members of the UN, who worry that the Trump administration will be unpredictable or erratic in future decision making.
"Is this how it is going to work from now on," one anonymous UN diplomat said. "We have no idea what we can expect."
Trump had been critical of former President Barack Obama's relationship with Israel, having blasted the U.S. decision to recuse itself from a UN resolution to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank in December 2016.
On Jan. 18, Obama defended his administration's decision during his final presidential press conference. In his view, Israel's continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank could make a two-state solution impossible in the future.
"I don't see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised," Obama said, according to the New York Daily News.
"It was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing, and Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing," Obama added.