Herb Keinon, Tovah Lazaroff
The Jerusalem Post
September 20, 2012 - 12:00am

The Prime Minister’s Office warned Thursday that a Palestinian unilateral statehood bid at the UN, along with attempts to set the territorial boundaries of the conflict through a General Assembly resolution, would be a “mistake” and “a blow to the peace process.”

“We hope this does not happen,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“The Palestinians committed themselves to resolving all outstanding issues in negotiations, and such a unilateral action would be viewed as a violation.”

Regev’s words came in response to Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat’s statement that the PA plans to ask the UN to set territorial terms for a negotiated two-state solution along the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Erekat spoke with reporters in his Jericho office, in advance of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech on September 27 at the opening session of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, which began this week in New York.

The Palestinians plan to ask the UN’s 193 nations to upgrade their status from observer to non-member state – a move that increases their rights before the international body. He did not set a date for submission of the resolution.

The PA, Erekat said, hopes to garner the support of 150 to 170 UN nations for their proposal.

Among those who spoke out this week against Palestinian unilateral steps at the UN was its Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

At a Wednesday press conference in New York, Ban said he supported the Palestinian right to statehood, but urged them to achieve it through a negotiated settlement.

“The aspiration of the Palestinian people to join the United Nations has been a long aspiration, and it has been long overdue,” he said.

“At the same time, I believe that all these processes should come out as a result of a negotiated settlement of the Middle East peace process, particularly the two-state formula, where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security.”

Erekat said that given Israel’s insistence on clinging to the status quo, the Palestinians had no choice but to pursue this path.

“The national interest of Palestinians leaves us with no choice but to take Palestine to the UN as a non-member state,” Erekat said. He argued that such a move would help rekindle the peace process, which has largely been at a standstill for over three years.

The Palestinians have refused to hold direct talks with Israel until it freezes West Bank settlements and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to cede to that demand and has insisted that direct talks be held without preconditions.

Regev said it was “the ultimate in disingenuous behavior” for the PA to go to the UN with a unilateral statehood bid, claiming it was a necessary step because the peace process was not moving, when “they are responsible for the fact that the process has not moved ahead more energetically.”

Passage of a General Assembly resolution establishing Palestine as a non-member state could be considered a de facto recognition of statehood. It cannot be vetoed. Only the 15 member states on the UN Security Council can grant membership rights and full nation status.

In the past the US has pledged to veto the Palestinians’ bid for unilateral statehood at the Security Council. The issue became moot last year when the Palestinians failed to gain the necessary support for that statehood bid from nine of the 15 Security Council members.

Erekat on Thursday said that the Palestinian membership bid still stands before the Security Council, but at present they still lack those nine votes.

“Recognition of the state of Palestine does not require the UN. It is the sovereign decision of nations [based on] their sovereign discretion,” Erekat said.

Still, the Palestinians plan to use the forum of the General Assembly to shore up both international recognition of statehood and world support for a two-state solution along pre- 1967 lines, Erekat said.

“The occupied territories are not disputed territories,” he said.

There is wide consensus among the nations of the world that the border of both states is at the pre-1967 lines, Erekat said.

“When the Palestinians gain recognition as a non-member state, Israel can not argue that these are disputed territories,” he said. Once Abbas delivers his address, the Palestinians plan to begin geopolitical discussions with UN nations to solicit support for their resolution for nonmember state status, Erekat said.

“We want Palestine back on the map with the ’67 line and east Jerusalem as its capital,” Erekat said.

Already on Thursday morning, Erekat said, he had met with EU representatives in the region on this issue.

He added that he hoped as many EU countries as possible would support them, as well as the US and even Israel.

“This step aims to preserve the two-state solution,” he said. “I do not see why people who stand for the two-state solution should fight us,” Erekat said.

He rejected any attempts to characterize their efforts at the UN as unilateral steps.

“We never said our right to self-determination is subject to negotiation,” he said. When it comes to a two-state solution, he said, the PA is focusing its efforts on the UN, as the first and best step.

Once Palestine is recognized as a non-member state, he said, the rest of the process will fall into place and “the terms of reference for the negotiations will change.”

Once there is global acceptance through the UN General Assembly of a two-state solution along the pre-1967 lines, negotiations with Israel can center on staged steps for withdrawal, Erekat said.

“The PA was born out of a contract between the PLO and Israel to deliver Palestinians from occupation to independence. It can not have any other role.”

Also on Jericho on Thursday, Erekat spoke out about comments US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a recently leaked video.

Romney “is exporting fear and doom and gloom,” with his comments that the Palestinians are not interested in peace,” he said. “A presidential candidate must export hope... Those who believe in democracy and peace must redouble their efforts.”

When leaders export fear, Erekat said, “they are announcing that the extremists are victorious.

No one stands for peace more than the Palestinians,” he said. “No one will lose more from the absence of peace than the Palestinians.”


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