PM to warn Ashton against unilaterally declared Palestine

Officials say Netanyahu will tell EU foreign policy chief in J'lem that UN Palestinian state declaration would harm peace efforts beyond repair.

By
June 19, 2011 05:29
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu open mouth 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Yin Dongxun)

Recognition of unilaterally declared Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September could irreparably harm the peace process, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to tell the EU’s foreign policy chief when they meet in Jerusalem on Sunday, according to Israeli officials.

Catherine Ashton arrived in the region on Thursday in an effort to thwart the Palestinian unilateral statehood bid by finding a way to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with the Israelis.

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Although the EU has not said how it would vote on such a resolution, it has said that it prefers a negotiated solution.

In conjunction with Ashton’s visit, acting US Middle East envoy David Hale, and Dennis Ross – a top White House adviser on the Middle East – are in the region on a similar mission.

On Monday, Ashton will report on her visit to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. On Friday, Quartet envoys will meet on the matter in Brussels.

Israeli and Palestinian officials reiterated over the weekend, however, the same entrenched positions, which to date have made talks impossible.

In a meeting with Ashton in Ramallah on Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the EU to recognize a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

PLO Executive Committee member Saeb Erekat said Ashton replied that the EU’s top priority remained the resumption of the peace process. She also said that the PA demand would be discussed “inside the corridors of the EU.”

The Palestinians did not hear from Ashton that she’s opposed to the UN move, Erekat added. “But we also didn’t hear from her that she supports the step. At least the dialogue remains open on this matter.”

During the meeting, Abbas once again expressed willingness to return to the negotiating table with Israel, if Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution and agreed to halt construction in West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem, Erekat said.

Israel has rejected the conditions about construction. It has consistently called on the PA to return to negotiations without conditions.

In an interview with France 24 on Friday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said there was no real way to announce an end to all Jewish construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

“There are half a million people living there. They need a new kindergarten every week. They need for natural growth many items,” he said.

The Palestinian and Israeli borders in the West Bank should be determined through negotiations, and once that agreement is finalized, the Palestinians will receive any buildings built by Israel that fall within the boundaries of their new state, Barak said.

“I do not believe either borders or security, if [talks] are taken seriously by both sides, should be insurmountable,” Barak said.

He said there was a fifty-fifty chance that negotiations would be resumed.

An Israeli official added that a unilateral declaration of statehood would make it hard to move forward on the peace process.

“A one-sided resolution could cement a maximalist Palestinian position, thereby making a negotiated solution all but impossible,” the official said.

He added that if the UN was to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, then the Palestinians would not accept anything less as the borders of their state.

“For there to be peace, there has to be a change to that [pre- 1967] border,” the official said.

After his meeting with Ashton on Friday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that unilateral statehood would bring an end to the Oslo Accords.

“A move like that will be a violation of all the agreements that were signed until today,” Lieberman said in a statement. “Israel will no longer be committed to the agreements signed with the Palestinians over the past 18 years.”

“In light of Abbas’s current stance, the chances for negotiations are zero. Abbas is not interested in an agreement,” the foreign minister added. “He wants conflict, because that is his personal interest, even though it is against the Palestinians’ interest, and many oppose him.

“Israel is prepared to renew negotiations. The ball is in the Palestinians’ court,” Lieberman concluded.

Erekat said on Friday that the Palestinians were still intent on pursuing statehood at the UN. They have embassies in six EU countries, which is the equivalent of recognition of statehood, he said.

“We have Palestinian embassies in these countries,” Erekat said. “We are hoping that the remaining 21 countries would recognize the independent Palestinian state so as to solidify and preserve the twostate solution.

“This step is not aimed at isolating Israel,” Erekat stressed. “It’s aimed at consolidating the principle of the two-state solution and to say that the 1967 borders are the borders of the Palestinian state, and that east Jerusalem is its capital, so that this state can live in security and peace alongside Israel.”

Erekat said that the international community should help the Palestinians in their statehood bid “because Netanyahu is not a partner to any peace process.” He accused Netanyahu of trying to impose his dictates on the Palestinians and of pursuing a policy of assassinations and invasions and creating facts on the ground.

Ashton’s spokesperson told the media on Friday that “the high representative has come to Israel to encourage the parties to get back to the negotiating table. We are well aware that September is fast approaching.

“With the events of the Arab Spring and following President Obama’s speech, it is more urgent than ever to engage in meaningful negotiations and move the Peace Process forward,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson added that Ashton had proposed a new meeting of the Quartet principals, which she hoped would happen soon.

“As she said in the letter, what is needed is a clear reference framework to allow both sides to return to the negotiating table,” the spokesperson said.


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