Blair floats proposal to buy time on Palestinian UN bid

Quartet envoy's plan calls for PA to submit resolution to Ban Ki-moon, who himself would bring it to the General Assembly.

September 15, 2011 21:17
4 minute read.
Tony Blair.

Blair 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Quartet envoy Tony Blair presented a proposal to Israel and the Palestinians this week that would immediately keep the Palestinian Authority from taking a statehood recognition resolution to a vote at the UN, enabling the sides to continue working with the international community for a formula that would enable a return to negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that under the proposal, the Palestinians would deposit their draft resolution with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, who himself would bring it to the General Assembly by the end of the current session that runs until December 28, if negotiations were not renewed.

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Blair has been at the center of intensive diplomatic efforts in recent days to keep the Palestinians from going to the UN. One diplomatic official said the idea behind the proposal, which has been brought to both sides, was to “buy more time” and come to an agreement on parameters that could form the basis for negotiations.

Blair has in recent days been shuttling back and forth between the two sides, but it was not immediately clear whether either Israel or the Palestinians would accept this proposal.

His proposal comes even as the Palestinians announced on Thursday that they will take their statehood recognition bid to the Security Council, even though US President Barack Obama has said the US would veto the resolution.

It was also far from certain that even if the proposal was accepted, the two sides would be able to use the additional time to do something they haven’t succeeded in doing up to this point – agree on parameters for the talks. Nevertheless, according to one diplomatic official, this could insert a positive dynamic into the stalemated diplomatic process, and give PA President Mahmoud Abbas a graceful way to backtrack from the UN move.

Blair’s proposal is in addition to other proposals that have been floated by both EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the US in recent days.

Ashton met on Thursday morning for the second time in as many days with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and also with visiting US envoy Dennis Ross. She returned to Brussels in the afternoon.

While Ashton had hoped to get the 27 EU states to vote as one bloc at the UN on this issue, in recent days it has become apparent that this is very unlikely.

Also, after weeks of deliberation, Netanyahu announced on Thursday he would go to the UN General Assembly meeting next week and address the Palestinian statehood bid.

Speaking at a press conference with visiting Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, Netanyahu said, “The way to achieve this peace is through direct negotiations. There is no way to impose peace by diktat. If anyone knows that, certainly the people of the Czech Republic know that from their own memory, and this remains true today.”

Netanyahu said he decided to “convey these twin messages of direct negotiations for peace and the quest for peace through the quest for the truth. I’ve decided to take this message to the United Nations General Assembly when I speak there next week. Now, I know that the General Assembly is not a place where Israel gets a fair hearing. I know that automatic majorities there always rush to condemn Israel and twist truth beyond recognition. But I’ve decided to go there anyway – not to win applause, but to speak the truth to every nation that wants to hear truth.”

For weeks, there has been a debate inside the Prime Minister’s Office over whether Netanyahu should go to the UN or whether Israel should be represented by President Shimon Peres.

One government official said earlier this week the decision would be based on whether the prime minister felt he could have an impact on those European countries whose position on the matter has yet to be decided.

When asked how the Czech Republic, perhaps Israel’s closest friend in the EU, would vote on the statehood bid, Necas said, “I would like to emphasize that at this moment I am unfamiliar with the format and context of the request.”

Both Abbas and Netanyahu are now due to speak at the General Assembly on September 23.

Government officials are also in the process of trying to set up a meeting between the two at the UN, as well as with Obama.

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