“I have just returned from Japan. Japan's membership was vetoed five times by the UN Security Council, mainly by the Soviet Union. Today, the only power that applies the right of veto is the United States. They have the right to veto our application for a full membership even now, when the General Assembly recognized by an impressive majority that we are a state and have the right for membership. But the General Assembly cannot give us a full membership… We will continue to try, and let the United States veto us further. Maybe the world will get tired of the United States vetoing our application,” Shaath said.
On Relations With the US
According to Shaath, Palestine continues contacts with the United States, but rules out a political dialogue after Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“There are contacts, but they are very limited. After all, we have a diplomatic mission in Washington. The US side has threatened to close it, but have not closed it. It still works. Besides, the main task of the US consul in Jerusalem remains to represent the United States in relations with the Palestinians, because the US relations with Israel are still handled by the embassy in Tel Aviv,” Shaath said.
“But we do not have a political dialogue. There are various issues, visas, trade, many other aspects on which the interaction continues. We did not severe relations with the United States. But, I repeat, there is no political dialogue. We categorically and completely reject [US President Donald] Trump's statements about Jerusalem, his attempts to remove the issue of the city and refugees from the negotiating table, to cut down the funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. We are against all this,” Shaath explained.
According to the official, US President Donald Trump's threats to further curtail Washington's financial aid to Palestine have not yet been put into action.
"We have not yet been told about more specific cuts… The Americans think they can buy the world, they can put pressure on the people. We are not going to sell our country or our principles to the Americans," Shaath said.
In late January, Trump threatened to suspend the United States' financial aid to Palestine until the latter returned to negotiations with Israel. Prior to this, Abbas had said Palestine did not recognize the United States as a mediator in the settlement of the conflict with Israel in light of Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Prior to this, the US State Department announced its decision to twice cut its funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The UNRWA, which provides assistance to several million people in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, has launched a campaign to collect donations in order to compensate for the lack of funding.
Shaath went on to say that he was confident the cessation of the US aid would not be a painful blow to the Palestinian economy.
"Belgium raises its contribution by 33 million dollars, Norway, Holland raises its contribution by 15 million dollars… I mean we can get the money," the presidential adviser said.
On Cooperation Between Russia and Palestine
Speaking further, the top official said that Palestine was cooperating with foreign partners, including Russia, on elaborating a new multilateral format of the Israel-Palestine settlement and would welcome the convening of a large conference in Moscow.
“All… efforts are aimed at creating an international forum on the basis of a consensus vision of the Palestinian issue and a two-state solution in place of the peace process that is solely controlled by the United States. Of course, the United States will be among the participants, but the United States will be one out of six, one out of seven, one out of eight [participants], as it was in the agreement with Iran… On Monday, when our president will meet with President Putin, this will be the number one issue on our agenda,” Shaath said.
The official noted that the Palestinians would like to see Russia as a key participant of a new format, which was still at the early stage of discussions with foreign partners. He added that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in particular, had proposed to form a preparatory committee that would address the formula of the new format and its participants.
After that, according to Shaath, a new international conference modeled on the Madrid Conference of 1991 could be convened, prompting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with smaller memberships, as it happened during the negotiations between six world powers and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program.
"As it was agreed in the Madrid conference in 1991, Moscow should have been the second Congress, international Congress. The Americans did not do that. To us yes, it is due that that conference should be in Moscow. But this has to be agreed upon by the participants," the presidential adviser said.
The comments come as the Palestinian leader is scheduled to visit Russia on Monday to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Shaath added that the two leaders would also discuss the ways to expand the economic aid by Russia to Palestine and refugees, as the issue had become particularly acute given the latest US decision to reduce funding for the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA).
On Possibility to Abandon Autonomy
The Palestinians may decide to dissolve the existing self-governing bodies and return the responsibility over the territories and its large population to Israel, Nabil Shaathsaid.
In accordance with existing agreements, the bulk of the Palestinian population of the West Bank live in the so-called Areas A and B, where the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is responsible for providing all civilian services.
"Yes, I think it's an option we are discussing… But do you know what it will cost Israelis? My God! They control us and we pay for it. Now we pay for security, we pay for education, we pay for roads, we pay for health. We pay for everything and they are controlling it," Shaath said, when asked about the possibility of the PNA’s dissolution.
Shaath said that Palestinians realize that the existence of the Palestinian self-rule makes Israel's burden of being an occupying power relatively cheap and comfortable, however, it had not been initially designed this way.
"Yes, but that was not the object of that, of course. The object was that it is an interim period that will last at best for three years. And then two years of permanent status negotiations. So at most after five years we will have a totally independent state. This never happened. We are still living in the first two years of the Gaza-Jericho agreement which is a very interim status and even it is violated," Shaath said.
The visit of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Russia takes place two months after US president Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The president instructed the US Department of State to move the embassy from Tel Aviv.
Following Trump's resolution, the Council of the Arab League, chaired by Turkey, urged the international community to recognize the Palestinian State with its capital in East Jerusalem, while calling on the US to rescind its decision on the city.
Israel considers Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern districts of the city, which the Israelis seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967. The international community does not recognize the annexation of East Jerusalem and believes that the status of the city should be determined based on an agreement with the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part.