Settlement Building 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
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.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.
"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."
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
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
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
"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
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
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