Israel and the US must delay Palestinian unilateral statehood moves at the UN
until after the Israeli elections, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday
He spoke on Channel 10 hours after US President Barack Obama was
elected to a second four-year term.
“We have a joint interest, ours and
theirs, to delay the Palestinian UN bid for nonmember state,” he
said. “This has to be done now, immediately.”
Barak was not the
only politician and diplomat whose thoughts immediately turned to the frozen
Israel Palestinian peace talks, immediately upon hearing of Obama’s
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon immediately issued
a congratulatory statement, which said there were many challenges ahead,
including “getting the Middle East peace process back on track.”
with reporters in Tel Aviv that morning United States Ambassador to Israel Dan
Shapiro said that his country believed both sides should resume direct
“We think they [the PA] should be at the negotiating table,
not trying to resolve conflicts through unilateral measures or going to the UN.
That is an interest that we share with Israel,” Shapiro said.
International Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Tony
Blair, echoed the importance of resumed talks, but was not as clear about his
positions regarding the Palestinians’ UN bid.
He said that Obama’s
victory, “gives us a great opportunity actually to re-energize this process and
to try to make sure that we get back around the table and have a negotiation,
and that is the best and only way to try and create peace.”
during a Jerusalem meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who in the
last week has publicly called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
to return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions.
To date, Abbas
has insisted that he plans to turn later this month to the UN General Assembly
to upgrade the Palestinian status there to that of a non-member state, whose
boundaries are at the pre-1967 lines.
It’s a move that is seen as a
de-facto declaration of statehood.
It also grants Palestinians more
rights at the UN, as well as possibly the ability to pursue Israelis at the
International Court of Justice.
Netanyahu told Blair, “I have a constant
suggestion which I renew today – I said it two days ago, I’m saying it again
today. I think the best thing to do is to sit down together, negotiate without
preconditions, avoid unilateral actions in the UN and try to get on with
peace. That’s my suggestion to President Abbas, I hope you can help me
Abbas has said he would only talk with Israel once it
recognizes a Palestinian state at the pre-1967 lines or after the UN General
Assembly approves that language as part of an upgrade in the Palestinian status
to non-member state.
Abbas has warned that if this does not happen soon,
it might no longer be possible to arrive at a two-state solution.
interview with Reuters, Blair said that he understood Palestinian frustration,
but dismissed suggestions that, with more than 500,000 Israelis now living on
land seized in the 1967 war, the two-state solution was dead.
“Is it very
fashionable at the moment to say the two-state solution is not going to work?”
“Just examine the alternative for a moment. What does a
one-state solution mean? It means you institutionalize conflict right at the
heart of whatever that state might look like,” he said.
Blair declined to
endorse or condemn the Palestinian’s UN bid, but warned against hasty
“We have to understand the position the Palestinians find
themselves in. It is all about the credibility of the steps towards statehood.
It is very much in our interests to offer them a way forward that allows us one
way or another to get back to the negotiating table.”
He added, “I don’t
think there has been any change in President Obama’s view, which is that it is
in the strategic interest of the United States and the world that a resolution
of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is found.”
Shapiro confirmed that view
in his talk with reporters on the sidelines of a panel discussion at the
Institute for National Security Studies. Resolving the Israeli Palestinian
conflict, he said, “has always been a priority of the US as it has been a
priority of Israel and of the Palestinians, and of the Europeans and Arabs to
try and address this conflict,” he said.
“We will continue to try and
address it through direct negotiations. That is the only way it can be
addressed, so I am certain we will continue to look for opportunities to bring
the parties together and try to resolve the conflict together, through direct
negotiations,” Shapiro said.
Separately, German Foreign Minister Guido
Westerwelle on Wednesday commented on Israel’s continued plans to build Jewish
homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“I am very concerned regarding
the tenders for the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in Israeli
settlements in East Jerusalem.
“Our clear expectation directed towards
all sides in the Middle East is to refrain from anything that makes the
resumption of negotiations more difficult.
As the whole of the EU, we
share the view that the settlement policy is a hindrance to the peace process,”
Reuters contributed to this report.