U.S. Middle East peace plan to take advantage of technology: Haley

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that an American plan to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians brings “brings new elements to the discussion, taking advantage of the new world of technology that we live in.”

However, during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East Haley gave no details of exactly what was in the long-awaited, unpublished plan, which has been prepared by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“It is much longer. It contains much more thoughtful detail,” Haley told the council of the plan, which she said she has read. “It recognizes that realities on the ground in the Middle East have changed in powerful and important ways.”

The Palestinians are skeptical and have accused the Trump administration of siding with Israel on the core issues relating to the decades-old conflict. They have refused to participate in the U.S. effort since December 2017 when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy there.

“The Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations,” Haley said. “This plan will be different from all previous ones. The critical question is whether the response to it will be any different.”

She also accused Arab countries of not making the Palestinian people a priority: “Because if they were, you would all be in a room helping bring both sides to the table.”

British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce welcomed Haley’s remarks as confirmation that a U.S. peace plan is ready.

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European countries have been long been pushing Washington to release its peace plan. Swedish U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog lamented to the council on Tuesday that “hopes are evaporating with no peace process in sight.”

Washington has spoken with Israel about presenting the plan at the start of next year, Israel’s U.N. envoy has said.

More than four years after the last round of U.S.-sponsored peace talks broke down, the sides remain as divided as ever, with frequent flares-up of violence in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

A poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Tuesday found that 74 percent of Palestinians believe their leadership should reject Trump’s peace plan, if offered, while 21 percent want it accepted.

Israelis’ views on Trump are far warmer, but there has been skepticism about peace prospects even within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government.

“I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a Jerusalem conference last month. “I think personally it (a Trump peace plan) is a waste of time.

It was Haley’s last appearance at the monthly Security Council meeting on the Middle East. For the past two years she has generally used the meeting to target Iran over U.S. accusations that it is meddling in the region.

Haley will step down at the end of the year. Trump has nominated U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace her.

(This corrects 13th paragraph to show Israeli Justice Minister’s remarks were last month, not last week.)

Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis