UN resolution against settlements 'not an imminent threat'

Israel does not see move to take settlement issue to Security Council approaching despite Arab League calls; PA slams Congress for resolution against imposed solution; EU affirms need for negotiated agreement.

By
December 16, 2010 23:22
Construction workers in Ma'ale Adumim

Settlement Building 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Israeli officials were not overly concerned Thursday that a UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to stop "illegal" settlement activity was immediately in the works, despite a call Wednesday night by Arab League foreign ministers to seek such a resolution.

"This is not an imminent threat," one diplomatic official said, saying that often times Arab League statements are just that -- statements that are not translated into operative policy. He said it would take time, and US acquiescence, for this to move through the Security Council

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The Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, issued a statement saying it wanted to obtain a decision from the Security Council "that confirms, among other things, the illegal nature of this [settlement] activity and that would oblige Israel to stop it."


Another Israeli official said that as chances were dimming that the Palestinian Authority could get the US to agree to a UN Security Council declaration recognizing a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines, they were looking for Israel's "diplomatic and public diplomacy Achilles heel," which is the settlements.

Israel has almost no support around the world for its settlement policy, the official said, so the Palestinians – following US President Barack Obama's lead – are focusing on that.

The official said that while the US would be unlikely to veto a resolution condemning settlements, it might work behind the scenes to  keep the resolution from coming to the Security Council, arguing that this would only antagonize Israel and do nothing to promote the diplomatic process.

At the same time, the officials admitted, it was a good "lever" for the US to have over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an effort to get him to show more "flexibility" on core issue negotiations.

Ross discusses "security aspects" of settlement with Barak

Senior White House Advisor Dennis Ross, meanwhile, met together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, head of Military intelligence Maj. Gen- Yoav Kocahvi, and the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security  bureau Amos Gilad on Thursday for discussions that Barak said afterward dealt with various "security aspects" of a possible peace settlement with the Palestinians.

Israeli officials said this was part of an American effort to chart the sides' positions on the core issues.  Netanyahu convened a meeting of his senior ministers – the Septet – on Thursday to discuss the new US approach to the diplomatic process.

The officials would not confirm, however, reports that US envoy George Mitchell proposed to the Palestinians six weeks of "parallel" negotiations, during which the US would discuss with each side its positions on the core issues, but not reveal these positions to the other side. The goal of these 'parallel" talks would be to help the US understand where the sides were on these issues, so they could draw up a strategy to renew direct talks.

AFP quoted Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of Fatah's central committee, as saying that there would be not talks of any kind without a settlement freeze.

"There will not be any negotiations with Israel, in any form -- direct, indirect or parallel -- without an end to settlement," he said.

On Thursday the Palestinians suffered another setback in hopes to get the world to unilaterally impose a solution, when the US Congress passed a resolution calling on the Administration to "deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties."

PA slams US for "bias in favor of settlements"

As a result of this resolution, the PA stepped up its criticism of the US Administration and appealed to EU countries to recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.

EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, however, issued a statement after meeting Mitchell in Brussels that seemed to rule out any EU support for such a move.

"We recognize that our common goals for peace and security in the Middle East should be achieved through negotiations and with the support of the international community," the statement read.

Nimer Hammad, a political advisor to Abbas, condemned the US Congressional resolution as "proof of US bias in favor of settlement expansion."

Hammad said that the Palestinians were expecting Congress to pass a resolution calling on Israel to freeze all settlement construction.

"This bias in favor of Israel will only increase anti-US sentiments in the region," he said. "It's unfortunate to see the US once again standing alone with Israeli expansion and denial of Palestinian rights."

The PLO Executive Committee also strongly condemned the resolution, claiming it would "encourage Israel to continue with its anti-peace policy under the direct protection of the Americans."

US opposition to a unilateral declaration of statehood would further undermine Washington's credibility and weaken its image in the Middle East, the committee said.

PA makes appeals to EU countries to recognize state

The PA confirmed that it has asked a number of EU countries to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders even without an agreement with Israel.

The appeal was made separately to France, Britain, Denmark and Sweden. Earlier this week, Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat sent a letter to the EU with a similar demand.

In a related development, Naor Gilon, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for Western Europe, protested to Norway's charge d'affaires about Oslo's upgrade of the Palestinian presence in Norway from representation to delegate status.

Gilon, according to the Foreign Ministry, said that in light of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate, this upgrade "does not contribute to promoting or advancing the peace process."

What the upgrade does do, he said, is "reinforce the Palestinian illusion that they could achieve political gains without directly negotiating with Israel."

He also said the Norwegian move raised questions about whether Norway "has the balance required" of a country that chairs the Ad Hoc Liason Group, or donor group to the Palestinians. He  further protested that Israel learned of the move through the press and not directly from the Norwegians.

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