The UN General Assembly is most often tedious to attend. Speech after speech is filled with old ideas, vague threats and empty promises.
Saturday was different. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir made a surprise pronouncement during his speech at the UN.
Al Jubeir explained there is no reason for the Arab-Israeli conflict to continue. He did not lay blame; he simply said the conflict can and should be resolved.
The Saudi foreign minister said, “The Arab-Israeli conflict is still the longest conflict in the region in current times… We don’t see a justification for its continuation, particularly when there is international consensus about the solution based on two states.”
World powers agree the conflict must be resolved. To make that happen, the United States must pressure Israel, and Saudi Arabia must pressure the Palestinians.
On the sidelines of the General Assembly, President Donald Trump met separately with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Before his meeting with Trump, Abbas delivered a speech in which he demanded that the UN and the international community solve the Palestinians’ problem. Borrowing rhetoric from Trump, the Palestinian president demanded the international community “drain the swamps” of Israeli occupation and apartheid.
Moments later, through an interpreter, Abbas said to Trump, “If this is any proof to anything… it attests to the seriousness of your excellency, Mr. President, to achieve the deal of the century in the Middle East during this year or in the coming months, God willing.”
Abbas was referring to more than 20 trips taken to the Middle East by Trump’s special envoys and advisors charged with resolving the issue. Clocking in the most miles are the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who is scheduled to return to the region this week.
Trump responded to Abbas, “I think we have a very, very good chance, and I certainly will devote everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made… We’re at a very important juncture, there’s a small period of time, and we’re going to see what we can do. There can be no promises, obviously.”
Abbas believes the boundaries of the two states will be based on pre-1967 borders. Israel agrees but insists on small modifications that take into consideration the current demographics of where people live and where communities are situated. Accommodations, Israel claims, will include land swaps. For instance, if Israel is over this many kilometers on this side, they will give the Palestinians that many kilometers on that side.
According to Abbas, the much heralded and long ago suggested two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist alongside the Jewish state of Israel, is under threat. He told his advisors and other members of Arab delegations that Trump has not embraced the two-state solution idea.
In a publicly released statement, Abbas told Trump, “Peace can be achieved through implementing the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders…” and that “the illegal Israeli settlements policy poses an immediate threat” to implementing the solution.
On numerous occasions, Trump has said he is not limited to a two-state solution.
Abbas believes, as does much of the world, that a two-state solution is the only way to end Israeli’s and Palestinians’ quagmire.
Directly refuting arguments that he is not a willing partner for peace, Abbas said in his address to the General Assembly, “I address the Israeli people, across the spectrum of their society and tell them: We want to live in peace… Do not listen to those who try to convince you that peace between us is not possible.”
For decades, the goal of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East has been a two-state solution. If Abbas is ready to embrace a solution to the almost perpetual state of war between Palestinians and Israelis, the U.S. needs to grab the moment before it slips away.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator, author the “The Micah Report,” and host of the weekly TV show “Thinking Out Loud w Micah Halpern.” Follow him on twitter: @MicahHalpern