BY KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND HERB KEINON, JPOST—
The US on Wednesday officially asked the Palestinian Authority to abandon its plan to ask the UN later this month to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.
The request was relayed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas by US Middle East envoy David Hale during a meeting in Ramallah, Palestinian officials said. The meeting was attended by senior White House official Dennis Ross and US Consul-General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubenstien.
The officials said that the US envoys did not carry any new proposals for reviving the peace process.
Later in the day, at a naval officers commencement ceremony in Haifa, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called once again for Abbas to enter negotiations with him, and to remain at it until an agreement was hammered out.
“The place is not important,” he said. “What is important is to start, to continue and to complete .”
Netanyahu said that peace was made “through direct negotiations between the sides, and not through international dictate. Therefore I call from this stage to the president of the PA to come to direct negotiations without preconditions, and to remain there until it is finished.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat quoted Abbas as saying during his meeting with the US envoys that the Palestinians would resume the peace talks with Israel only if Jerusalem halted construction in the settlements and accepted the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Hale told Abbas that Washington wants to see the Palestinians return to the negotiating table with Israel, Erekat said.
Erekat quoted the US envoy as saying that the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – were preparing a new initiative that envisages the establishment of a Palestinian state “on the basis of the 1967 borders.”
According to Israeli officials the idea is that Israel would enter the negotiations using the 1967 lines, with mutually-agreed swaps, as the basis of talks, if the Palestinians agree that the goal of the negotiations would be two states – a Palestinian state and a Jewish one.
Israeli officials have noted that Jerusalem, while not endorsing the 1967 lines, would agree to language that would say that Israel recognized that this was the position of the international community.
This idea has been bouncing around since mid-July, when it was brought to the Quartet, but not accepted there. While the US supported, and continues to support the idea, the Russians were opposed to placing recognition of the Jewish state in the formula, and the Europeans took a middle position on the Jewish-state issue between the US and Russia.
One Western diplomat said that while a number of key European states – such as Germany, France and Italy – were not opposed, some other European countries – believed to include Britain and Spain – have objections.
Israeli diplomatic officials – acknowledging that it would be difficult to convince the Palestinians to accept the language recognizing Israel as a Jewish state in a possible formula, even if the EU was not fully behind it – said that the objections from some of the European countries stemmed from skepticism that the Palestinians would never accept the idea. Concern about the implications of this type of statement on other minority groups inside Israel were also cited.
One Israeli official said Israel was frustrated that while the Europeans have no problem putting into various resolutions coming out of Brussels language that is jarring to Israeli ears – such as various resolutions calling for Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state – they don’t have the same qualms about inserting language difficult for the Palestinians.
One Palestinian official, meanwhile, told The Jerusalem Post that he did not rule out the possibility that the Palestinians would go only to the UN General Assembly, and not to the Security Council, where the US has threatened to use the veto to foil the statehood initiative.
“We have been advised by some or our European and Arab friends not to go to the Security Council because we don’t have a majority in favor of the plan, and because of the US threat to use the veto,” the official said. “We are now studying submitting a request to the General Assembly to accept the state of Palestine as a full member. This is also an important step because it would give us access to numerous international bodies.”
Erekat stressed, however, that Hale did not deliver a “direct threat” to the PA leadership against going to the UN.
According to Erekat, the PA is only planning to apply to the UN for membership of a Palestinian state on the pre- 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
“Contrary to what is being said, we are not asking for independence or recognition of a Palestinian state,” he explained. “It’s wrong to say that the Palestinian Authority is asking for independence.
The independent state was declared more than 20 years ago. We are only asking that Palestine be admitted as a member of the UN.”
Erekat said that Hale came to Ramallah in an attempt to convince the PA against going to the UN, using the argument that such a move would complicate matters and did not serve the two-state solution.
During the meeting Abbas asked the US Administration to reconsider its position toward the statehood bid, Erekat added.
Erekat also dismissed claims that the statehood bid would affect the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to their original villages inside Israel.
“Going to the UN won’t cancel the right of return,” he said.
“Recognition of a Palestinian state will pave the way for the state to enter international institutions and demand all our legitimate rights, including the right of return.”