The United States on Friday blocked the appointment of the former Palestinian prime minister to lead the UN political mission in Libya, saying it was acting to support its ally Israel.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Trump administration "was disappointed" to see that UN Secretary-General António Guterres had sent a letter to the Security Council indicating his intention to appoint Salam Fayyad, who served as the Palestinian Authority's prime minister from 2007 – 2013, as the next UN special representative to Libya.
"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.
Palestine is a non-member observer state at the United Nations and its independence has been recognized by 137 of the 193 UN member nations. But Haley stressed that the United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state "or support the signal" Fayyad's appointment would send within the United Nations.
UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said Fayyad is well-respected for his work in reforming the Palestinian Authority and spurring its economy and had the support of the 14 other Security Council members to succeed Martin Kobler in the Libya job.
Despite opposition to Fayyad, Haley indicated that the Trump administration wants to see an end to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution," she said.
Haley's statement comes ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15, and was welcomed by Israelis.
"This is the beginning of a new era at the UN, an era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State," Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said of the US decision to block Fayyad's appointment. "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."
Dan Shapiro, until recently the US ambassador to Israel, responded to the move with criticism. In a series of tweets, Shapiro stated that blocking Fayyad from the position is "stunningly dumb." He added that "True it's farce, ridiculous. But if you know Fayyad—decent, smart, honest, ethical, hardworking—it's much more outrageous."
While Haley made it clear that "going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies," Trump himself indicated in comments Friday that there might be some difficult discussions with Netanyahu next week on Israel's settlement expansion.
The US leader was quoted as saying that Israel's settlement expansion or new construction in land outside present settlement blocks may not advance peace. The sentiment is in line with most of the international community, which considers all Israeli settlements in territory the Palestinians want for a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal and counterproductive to peace.