US President, Donald Trump voiced optimism that more peace agreements to normalize ties between Israel and Arab countries are possible when he addressed the opening session of the 75th UN General Assembly. As the General Debate is taking place mostly virtually this year due to COVID-19, Trump delivered his speech from the White House.
Trump’s speech was mostly focused on the pandemic, and he sharply criticized China for its response to the virus. “We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world – China,” he said. “In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China.”
“We are mass producing them in advance so they can be delivered immediately upon arrival, we will distribute a vaccine,” Trump said. “We will defeat the virus.”
The US president addressed the recent agreements that the White House brokered, such as the economic agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, and the historic Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Trump said that there are “many other Middle Eastern countries to come.”
“They are coming fast, and they know it’s great for them, and it’s great for the world,” Trump said. “These groundbreaking peace deals are the dawn of the new Middle East… We intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over.”
He also noted that the US is working to end the war in Afghanistan. “We are bringing our troops home,” Trump said. “America is fulfilling our destiny as a peacemaker, but it is peace through strength.”
In a brief remark about Iran, the president mentioned that the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal “and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the next speaker to address the assembly. Erdogan slammed Israel’s policies in Jerusalem and toward the Palestinians. “The occupation and oppression of Palestine is a bleeding wound of humanity,” he said.
The Turkish president said “the filthy hand” – presumably of Israelis – is “constantly increasing its audacity” in Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan walked out of Erdogan’s speech, accusing him of antisemitism.
“Erdogan continues his lies and antisemitic statements against Israel, and it is important that the world know the double standards by which he has been living for many years,” Erdan said. Erdogan commended the Palestinians, who he said “stood up to Israeli policies of violence and intimidation for more than half a century.”
The Turkish president accused Trump of being a “collaborator” with Israel and called his peace plan “a document of surrender.”
“Turkey will not support any plan the Palestinian people do not give consent to,” Erdogan said. “[The plan] does not mean anything beyond serving Israel’s efforts to erode basic international parameters.”
As for the countries that opened or plan to open embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, Erdogan said their “violation of international law only serves to make the conflict more complicated.”
The US and Guatemala are currently the only countries with embassies to Israel in Jerusalem, though several others, including Honduras, Serbia and Kosovo, have declared their intention to move their missions, as well.
“The Palestinian conflict can only be resolved with an independent, sovereign, and contiguous state of Palestine based on ’67 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital. Seeking solutions other than this are in vain, one-sided and unjust,” Erdogan said.
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani made it seem unlikely on Wednesday that his country would agree to a normalization deal with Israel, as he blasted Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians during his virtual address to the UNGA.
He also rejected the Trump administration peace process for a two-state resolution to the conflict.
The Trump plan ignores the pre-1967 lines and allows for Israel to eventually apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank.
It also recognizes Israeli sovereignty in a majority of Jerusalem.
But Al-Thani said that a “just and desired peace can only be achieved through Israel’s full commitment to the terms of reference and decisions of the international legitimacy accepted by the Arabs and upon which the Arab Peace Initiative is based, while Israel tries to circumvent it and acts as if the Palestinian cause does not exist. Any arrangements that are not based on these terms of reference will not achieve peace, even if they are called peace.”
“The lingering of the Palestinian cause without a just solution, and Israel’s continued settlements and creation of pretexts on the ground without being deterred, pose the biggest question mark on the credibility of the international community and its institutions,” Al-Thani said.
He called for negotiations based on “establishing an independent Palestinian state within 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital, and to end the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories.”
King Abdullah of Jordan, whose country signed a peace deal with Israel in 1994, also spoke of the importance of the two-state resolution at the pre-1967 lines and of his country’s special relationship to Jerusalem, particularly the Old City.
“We cannot resolve this conflict without working to preserve Jerusalem as a unifying city of peace.
“As Hashemite Custodian, I am bound by a special duty to safeguard Jerusalem’s Islamic and christian holy sites, but the responsibility for the Holy City falls on us all,” King Abdullah said.