Without statehood, negotiations will not continue

The Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians can’t resume negotiations with Israel under current conditions and will pursue their bid to win U.N. recognition, a top Palestinian official said Thursday, after President Mahmoud Abbas and senior officials reviewed the latest appeal from Mideast mediators to restart talks and reach a deal within a year.

Last week, Abbas asked the U.N. to grant full membership to a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. In a turning point for Palestinian diplomacy, Abbas overrode strong objections by the U.S. which, like Israel, argues that a state must arise from negotiations.

Since returning from the U.N., both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have tried to avoid being blamed for the deepening impasse.
The Palestinians say they can’t be expected to negotiate while Israel keeps expanding settlements, thus pre-empting the outcome of a deal. They say they suspect Netanyahu wants talks as a diplomatic shield, but is not interested in reaching a deal.

Netanyahu alleges the Palestinians are not serious about peace and says he is ready to negotiate at any time. However, the Israeli leader refuses to halt settlement construction or recognize the pre-1967 frontier as a baseline, rejecting internationally backed positions and Palestinian demands.

After the Palestinians’ U.N. bid, the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., the U.N., the European Union and Russia — called for the resumption of talks and a deal within a year.

Abed Rabbo also said the Palestinians will keep pursuing U.N. recognition. Currently, the 15-member U.N. Security Council is reviewing the issue. The U.S. has already said it would veto the request should the Palestinians muster the required nine votes.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters Thursday that the Palestinians have secured eight votes so far, and that they are lobbying for more support.

Despite the certain U.S. veto, the Palestinians are pushing for a majority in the council, in part to show that their statehood bid has international support. Malki told reporters that eight council members — Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria and Gabon — are expected to vote for Palestinian membership.

Also Thursday, the Palestinian Economics Ministry said that without Israel’s occupation, the Palestinian economy would be almost double in size and entirely independent of foreign aid.

The ministry said losses due to Israeli restrictions amount to nearly $7 billion a year, or 85 percent of the Palestinian nominal gross domestic product. This includes nearly $2 billion in losses due to Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, water use restrictions and restrictions on natural resources respectively, said Economics Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Without statehood, negotiations will not continue