Palestinian officials are ramping up expectations for their cause at the United Nations, even as they struggle to hold their ground elsewhere and the Trump administration completes a peace plan they've had little say in.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to visit New York next week as his government takes over leadership of the G-77, a symbolically important bloc of developing nations that his government can use to try to pressure Israel.
Yet the leverage at the UN is a rare bright spot in the authority's decades-long effort to secure an independent Palestinian state: The U.S. is putting the finishing touches on its long-promised Middle East peace plan, the Trump administration has been slashing aid to Palestinians and countries including Brazil and India are increasingly reaching out to Israel.
"It's a very weak hand, but it's the only hand they have," said Ilan Goldenberg, who heads the Mideast program at the Center for a New American Security and was involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the Obama administration. "The UN channel is very limited right now, but they put a lot of emphasis in the last few years on the UN channel to get international pressure on Israel."
The strategy has had some success, with the UN General Assembly recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a non-member state in 2012 and Palestinians gaining membership in groups such as UNESCO and the International Criminal Court.
While resolutions at the General Assembly are nonbinding, the Palestinians will try to use their leadership role on the G-77 to introduce proposals that sharpen the language against Israeli policies and embarrass the U.S., said Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation who focuses on the UN.
"They will leverage this position to cause as much pain as possible to the U.S. and Israel," said Schaefer. He said that the Palestinians will try to focus on their opposition to Israel as the "Palestinian issue recedes as the preeminent subject concerning Arab countries."
The Palestinians say that chairing the G-77 is an imprimatur that brings them one step closer to their goal.
"Leading this organization brings more support to our status as an independent Palestinian state," Abbas adviser Nabil Shaath said in an interview. While Israel said this week that it foiled a Palestinian effort this month to seek full UN membership, Shaath pledged to "submit drafts until we get accepted."
That remains a long shot because the U.S. holds veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council.
In this month's maneuvering, Abbas's government saw an opportunity to bolster its case when South Africa and Indonesia, both seen as friendly to its cause, took rotating seats on the Security Council. But an effort to force a showdown Security Council vote on full UN membership stalled as Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon worked behind the scenes to head it off.
At the same time, Israel has worked to bolster ties with key developing nations including India and Brazil, that are increasingly interested in closer economic and military ties. Brazil's new government indicated it plans to shift its voting patterns at the UN in Israel's favor.
An early sign of this came in December, when Brazil sided with Israel and the U.S. by voting to support a draft resolution in the General Assembly condemning Hamas, a move that Eduardo Bolsonaro, the new president's son, said broke with his country's historical voting pattern.
Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security said the Palestinian push at the UN is cyclical. When peace negotiations stall, they typically accelerate their efforts there to put pressure on Israel and to show the public at home that they're not sitting still, he said.
But in an "America First" era that's seen countries from Brazil to Turkey raising questions about traditional alliances, the Palestinian focus on multilateral institutions may be out of sync with the times.
Jerusalem as Capital
Palestinian officials - and many U.S. allies - were outraged when President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced plans to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. Abbas's government has since refused to take part in the administration's Middle East peace plan.
Since then, delays to the U.S. plan have had more to do with outside events: the Saudi killing of critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey and snap elections called by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for April. U.S. is preparing to move forward.
This week, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have been blanketing the Middle East, separately visiting at least 10 countries to shore up ties. Not on their list: any meetings with Palestinian officials.
In her parting comments on the issue as UN Ambassador, Haley said the organization's "obsession" with criticizing Israel could backfire on the Palestinians - sending them the message that "they just might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the UN, rather than through direct negotiations."
That, she said, "is the path to endless stalemate."