A UN group of developing nations has thumbed its nose at the U.S. and Israel by selecting the observer state of Palestine as its leader.

The UN's Group of 77 — which now includes 138 nations and spans 80 percent of the world's population — was formed in 1964 to advocate for the economic interests of smaller countries. Its selection of Palestine as group leader is a rebuke to the U.S. and its ally Israel, who want to limit Palestine's power at the UN until an Arab-Israeli peace plan is worked out that defines Palestine statehood.

Palestine was admitted to the UN in 2012 as a "non-member observer state." The UN Security Council blocked it from full member status in 2011. Of the 193 countries in the UN, 136 recognize the State of Palestine as an independent state. The U.S. and Israel do not.

The US and Israel "are still denying we are a state,” said permanent Palestinian observer to the UN Riyad Mansour in the New York Times on Wednesday. “We walk like a state. We quack like a state. Therefore we are a state.”

 

This spring, President Trump engaged in some provocation of his own, fulfilling a campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed territory of Jerusalem, enraging Muslims and spurring the Palestinian Authority to cut diplomatic ties to the U.S.

Last year, Trump put Middle East peace under the purview of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. It's unclear how that is progressing.

On Tuesday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley urged Israel's neighbors to aid Palestinians and help to advance the peace process. "It is time for the regional states in particular to step up and really help the Palestinian people, instead of just making speeches thousands of miles away,” she said in a meeting of the UN Security Council.