The United Nations Security Council could support the Palestinian’s unilateral bid for statehood if Israel does not renew its freeze on new settlement construction, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry warned Israel on Tuesday.
“If the freeze is not renewed, then yes, maybe this is going to happen,” Serry said as he spoke with The Jerusalem Post in an olive grove in the West Bank village of Turmus Aiya, located in the Binyamin Region near the Shiloh settlement.
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He held a joint event there with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to mark the founding of the UN 65 years ago.
But he qualified his remarks by noting that he was an official of the UN and not a member of the Security Council, whose 15-member body would make such a decision.
The PA has threatened to turn to the UN and ask for recognition of Palestinian statehood inside the 1967 lines if the diplomatic process breaks down. The Palestinians said they would not resume talks unless Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu resumed a settlement moratorium, and Netanyahu has said he would consider the possibility of bringing an additional freeze to the cabinet if the Palestinians would recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – something they are refusing to do.
Serry told the Post, “I do not think it is helpful to come with conditions on either side.” He added that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was an understood part of a two-state solution.
“What is the essence of a two state solution,” Serry said. “It is about two home lands for two peoples, the Palestinian and the Jewish people.”
Still, he said that settlement construction would be harmful to the peace process. Serry added that it was important for Israel to make other tangible gestures, such as fewer military incursions into area A and more enablement of the PA in areas B and C, particularly with respect to zoning and Palestinian land development issues.
“The occupation is being rolled back and Israel is taking positive steps, but we need to see more tangible progress,” he told reporters.“If the Palestinians living in this beautiful little town do not see that these things are being rolled back, it is difficult to convince them that we are working toward a two state solution.
“I hope the negotiations will be resumed soon,” he said, adding that the best way to achieve this was for the two sides to come to a negotiated two state solution.
Serry said that the Palestinians were ready for statehood and threw his support behind Fayyad’s two-year plan, first announced in August 2009, to prepare Palestinian institutions for statehood by that same time in 2011.
“All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future,” Serry said. “We are in the homestretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support.”
He added, “Palestinian statehood is not only a right and in everyone’s interest – it is also doable.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor responded by saying that “while Palestinian institutions may be ready for statehood, friends of the Palestinians would be well advised that real statehood can be reached only through direct negotiations with Israel, and that they should resume talks without pre-conditions and with no further delay.”
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu, like Serry, also believes Palestinian statehood is “doable.” But, he said, “the path to the realization of Palestinian sovereignty can only be through direct negotiation with Israel, where leadership on both sides are willing to take historic decisions.”
Referring to Palestinian threats to take the issue to the UN, Netanyahu said, “All other paths are a dead end, a mirage. It is crucial that the international community, in dealing with the Palestinians, says this clearly: Palestinian statehood is possible, but only achievable through a negotiated peace.”
But Fayyad said that if Israel was committed to peace it would have taken more steps to curb settlement construction and/or halted it altogether. Such building, he explained, is illegal under international law.
“The youngest of these olive trees is more deeply rooted in this land than the largest Israeli settlement,” Fayyad said.
Israel, he continued, must begin to view these laws and UN resolutions not as “mere recommendations” but as “obligations that have to fulfilled.” But Israel does not seem eager to end the occupation, he said.
The 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction, which expired on
September 26th was not compliant with international law because it
allowed settlement construction to continue, according to Fayyad.
“To have that moratorium, which was far less than what was required, not
even extended, raises questions about Israel’s commitment to peace,” he
At one point during the event, he climbed up on a ladder to pick olives,
which he placed in a blue UN baseball cap. Briefly, as he stood there,
he held a Palestinian flag aloft.
Back on the ground, he said he hoped that “when we celebrate the 66th UN
Day next year, we will be celebrating also the emergence of a
Palestinian state.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report