The Palestinian Authority may postpone plans to ask the UN in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, a senior PA official in Ramallah said on Wednesday.
It was the first time in many months that a PA official had expressed willingness to delay the statehood bid.
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The official said that the PA leadership would discuss the possibility of postponing the move in return for American and international guarantees that Israel would refrain from “creating new facts on the ground” in the coming months.
PA President Abbas had called a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee to brief them on a visit to Washington this week by Saeb Erekat and Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the official in Ramallah said.
The two officials held talks in Washington with senior US government officials regarding the PA’s plans for September.
The comments came a day after US President Barack Obama, during a press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said they both agreed that “unilateral actions such as the Palestinians seeking a vote on statehood at the UN General Assembly should be avoided.”
An Israeli government source said the PA official’s comments were possibly a response “to the fact that important players in the international community have said in clear terms that going to the UN is not a productive step.”
The PA denied that Erekat and Abu Rudaineh had held indirect talks with Israeli officials during their visit to Washington.
“We are under pressure from the Americans and some Europeans to postpone the plan to ask for UN recognition in September,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.
“They are even threatening to impose financial sanctions on us if we don’t comply.”
Erekat is reported to have told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the PA would not agree to delay the statehood bid unless it received guarantees that Israel would refrain from “provocations” on the ground in the coming months.
The talk about Israeli “provocations” is seen as a departure from the PA’s previous demand of a full cessation of settlement construction.
Israeli officials said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said clearly he is ready to return to talks immediately and put all issues on the table, but that for this to happen, there must be either an annulment of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement or Hamas must accept the Quartet’s three conditions for engagement: giving up terrorism, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous Israeli- Palestinian agreements.
This was one of the messages that Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho is believed to have passed on to the US during recent meetings he held in Washington aimed at seeing whether there was any way to get the PA to return to negotiations.
Erekat, meanwhile, said on Tuesday at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution in Washington that the Palestinians were ready to restart peace negotiations based around the principles US President Barack Obama laid out in his State Department speech on the Middle East last month.
According to a The Washington Post report, Erekat said that if Netanyahu “wants to be a partner, he has to say it: Two states on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. He has a choice.”
The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote that Erekat said that if Netanyahu did not make that declaration, “talks would not go forward and Palestinians would proceed with a plan to petition the United Nations for admission as a member state.”
This initiative, Erekat said, would be launched by July 15.
According to Diehl, Erekat, in his comments, “left little doubt that he was staking out a position in response to the Obama administration’s efforts to restart negotiations – a position that appears aimed less at advancing the process than at deepening the discord between the Israeli and US governments.”
Netanyahu has rejected Obama’s proposal that the June 4, 1967, lines, with mutually agreed swaps, be the baseline for negotiations.
In a related development, Jerusalem is expecting acting US Middle East envoy David Hale to arrive in the region in the coming days, to continue efforts to explore ways to restart negotiations.
Hale is believed to have separately met in Washington recently with Erekat and Molcho.