Lieberman warns against '67 borders

Erekat PA may ask UNSC

A return to the pre-1967 lines, with a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, would bring the conflict into Israel's borders, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday night, according to Israel Radio and other Israeli media outlets. Establishing a Palestinian state will not bring an end to the conflict, Lieberman was quoted as saying, in an address at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem. The forum's deliberations are supposed to be conducted behind closed doors, but Lieberman's comments were immediately reported by Hebrew news sites and then by Israel Radio. If a Palestinian state were established in Judea and Samaria, the minister reportedly added, Israeli Arabs would demand autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev and would build stronger bonds with the Palestinian Authority. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper in an interview published earlier in the day that the PA was considering asking the UN Security Council to recognize the existence of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, with its capital in east Jerusalem. In response to Erekat's statements, an Israeli government source said that any solution had to be negotiated and agreed upon, adding that any unilateral move would be "a mirage." The source said that Israel had called for the resumption of talks and it was the Palestinians who had decided not to return to the negotiating table. Another source added that this was probably an attempt by the PA to pressure Washington and Jerusalem to meets its demand for a settlement freeze if negotiations are to resume. Erekat spoke ahead of Sunday's 21st anniversary of a 1988 unilateral decision by the Palestinian National Council to declare a Palestinian state. Many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have since recognized Palestine as a state. But the US and most European countries have not, and the United Nations has not accepted it as a member state. Fox News reported on Saturday that the PA planned to introduce a UN resolution that would call for statehood. Erekat told Al-Ayyam that, in light of the long-stalled negotiations with Israel, the PA was busy enlisting the support of various countries to seek UN recognition for the state of Palestine in the territories captured by Israel in 1967. Given that the US would likely veto such a move, Erekat's actions are viewed by some as a pressure tactic to push Israel to freeze settlement activity. Israel, backed by the US, has insisted that direct talks with the Palestinians should start without preconditions. Hassan Khatib, the director of the PA's government media center, said that the Palestinian "decision-making bodies" have not made any new decision to unilaterally seek statehood from the UN. Still, Erekat said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas would be lobbying for support of the plan in his upcoming visits to South America and Europe. He noted that he had brought the idea up several times in meetings with US officials, and said that he would continue to do so. The Palestinians have already received the backing of Arab nations, and Erekat said he believed that Russia and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would also support the call. The Palestinian negotiator added that in recent meetings with EU and UN officials, responses to the idea had been positive. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, he noted, supported the proposal and had voiced it himself at a recent event. But Israeli legal expert Ruth Lapidot said that it is not the UN's role, much less that of the Security Council, to confer statehood. The Palestinians, she said, have already unilaterally declared statehood, and they did not need to do it again. Recognition of statehood is a political act, and every state has the right to decide for itself whether to recognize another state. Should the Palestinians seek admission to the UN as a state, she said, the Security Council would have to recommend that the matter be taken up by the General Assembly. The Palestinians would then need to secure a two-thirds majority to be accepted as a member state of the UN. Fox News reported that should the Palestinian fail to gain statehood at the UN, they would consider dissolving the PA and pushing for a one-state solution. Jerusalem Post staff and news agencies contributed to this report.