Bloc Comprising a Majority of UN Member States Hands Presidency to ‘State of Palestine’

By Patrick Goodenough | July 26, 2018 | 4:39am EDT
Palestinian permanent observer Riyad Mansour speaks to reporters in New York on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (Screen capture: U.N. Webcast)

( – At a time when the Trump administration’s robust defense of Israel at the United Nations is shaking up an institution that has long been hostile to the Jewish state, the biggest bloc of developing nations at the U.N. has decided to bestow its presidency on the “State of Palestine.”

The move looks likely to increase pressure on the U.S. and Israel in the U.N. General Assembly, where the U.S. already invariably loses Israel-related votes by heavily lopsided margins.

There is no sovereign state of Palestine, but the self-rule Palestinian Authority chaired by Mahmoud Abbas has since 2012 enjoyed the status of “observer state” at the General Assembly.

With effect from January, that observer state will preside over the bloc of developing nations that calls itself the Group of 77.

The G77 today has 134 members, including seven of the world’s ten most populous nations. The grouping (sometimes known as the G77+China) accounts for 80 percent of the global population.

Comprising more than two-thirds of the membership of the General Assembly, the G77 is potentially a powerful voting bloc, and plays a particularly important role in budgetary matters.

G77 members do not always vote together, but resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue generally do draw overwhelming G77 support.

The bloc’s presidency rotates annually among the Asian, African and Latin American regional groups. Next year is Asia’s turn, and the Asian group has put forward the Palestinian delegation as its sole nominee to succeed the current president, Egypt.

That decision will be formalized by the full membership when G77 ministers meet in New York on September 27, on the sidelines of the high-level General Assembly session opening.

‘She is becoming more Israeli than the Israelis themselves’

The face of the Palestinian G77 presidency will be Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian permanent observer at the U.N. who frequently clashes in U.N. forums with his Israeli and U.S. counterparts.

The Trump administration has made support for Israel a priority at the U.N., and Ambassador Nikki Haley is outspokenly pro-Israel in her role.

Next year could prove particularly awkward. Mansour told reporters in New York this week that he has no working relationship with Haley, accusing her of treating the Palestinians negatively under the pretext of defending Israel.

“For me I don’t have, you know, a relationship with Ambassador Nikki Haley because [of] her attitude and her behavior,” he said. “She doesn’t spare a moment for unleashing, you know, something that is so negative vis-à-vis the Palestinian people under the pretext of … defending Israel.”

“In fact, she is becoming more Israeli than the Israelis themselves.”

A meeting in New York Tuesday of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) provided a glimpse of the tensions.

ECOSOC considered a resolution, introduced by Egypt on behalf of the G77, that included a last-minute oral revision condemning Israel for holding onto the bodies of Palestinians killed in the conflict.

The U.S. delegate, Ambassador Kelley Currie objected on procedural grounds – delegations are usually given 24 hours to consider circulated revisions or amendments – but her objection was voted down.

Earlier Israel, not an ECOSOC member, proposed an amendment that would name Hamas – which is holding onto the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers killed during an Aug. 2014 clash.

Despite Currie’s appeal for all member-states to “be clear on where they stand regarding Hamas by voting in support of the amendment,” it, too, was voted down, by a vote of 18-5 (the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay).

(In a speech in Washington on Monday, Haley noted that in more than 600 General Assembly resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, not one has mentioned Hamas by name.)

During her intervention at the ECOSOC meeting, Currie drew attention to the upcoming G77 presidency.

“We note that the Palestinian delegation is poised to take up the presidency of the G77 in 2019,” she said. “If today’s actions are indicative of the manner in which the delegation intends to carry out its presidency, we would encourage that grouping to reconsider its choice of leadership.”

In his remarks to reporters, Mansour pointed to Currie’s remarks as an example of what he suggested was U.S. hostility towards the Palestinians.

“She reprimanded and criticized the G77+China by telling them, how dare you select the State of Palestine to chair the G77+China,” he said.

“It is none of her business. It is the business of the G77+China, 135 countries, who elected the State of Palestine to preside over that group for the year 2019. So now who is attacking who?”

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