Former PLO negotiator: Israel 'no partner'

Palestinians to press for UN recognition in September as former chief negotiator questions Israel's commitment to peace.

    A former Palestinian peace negotiator has told Al Jazeera that Binyamin Netanyahu's government is "no partner for peace", after the Israeli prime minister rejected US president Barack Obama's call for a Middle Eastern settlement based on the 1967 borders.

    Palestinian leaders have welcomed Obama's call, in a keynote speech on Thursday, for a peace deal "based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps".

    But Netanyahu, visiting the White House on Friday, said Israel could not return to those borders because they were "indefensible".

    Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's former chief negotiator, told Al Jazeera: "I don't think we have partner in Israel today to proceed along the two-state solution line.

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    "Let's give this option the chance, let's give president Obama the chance, let's give Israelis the chance, let's give the international community the chance to have prime minister Netanyahu utter 'two states on 1967 lines' - and if he fails to do that we have many other options that we will go about."

    Palestinian officials said on Saturday they would press ahead with seeking recognition for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September.

    "Of course we will go to the United Nations," Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Reuters news agency.

    "Especially after Netanyahu used the old pretext that he needs 'defensible borders' to keep stealing our land, control the Jordan Valley and create demographic facts on the ground."

    Abu Rdainah, Abbas' spokesman, said Palestinians preferred to pursue peace with Israel rather look to the United Nations.

    "Our position is to give an opportunity, until September, for going back to the negotiating table based on a halt to settlement activity," he said.

    "It would be our first choice."

    But the statehood vote would have first to be approved in the Security Council, where the United States - which insists on a negotiated peace accord - has a veto.

    Shaath urged President Obama to join other countries in endorsing a Palestinian state taking in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Another Palestinian official, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said the drive to win statehood status unilaterally could be forestalled, should Israel accept the demand to extend a freeze on its settlement on occupied land so that negotiations can resume.

    But no such rapprochement looked imminent after the Israeli prime minister, differed with Obama on the issue.

    'Symbolic actions'

    Israel is lobbying against the Palestinians' UN bid.

    But European Union states, UN diplomats say, are looking increasingly favourably on the idea of recognising a Palestinian state.

    "Our position is to give an opportunity, until September, for going back to the negotiating table based on a halt to settlement activity"

    Abu Rdainah, Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman

    Obama criticised the Palestinian push in his Middle East speech on Thursday, dismissing it as "symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations."

    In February, the United States struck down a Security Council motion that would have branded the West Bank settlements as illegal.

    The Palestinians currently have the status of UN observers without voting rights. The Vatican and European Union have the same status.

    Israel disputes the Palestinian claim on all of territory based on the 1967 borders. Gaza, the other half of the Palestinian polity, was evacuated by the Israelis in 2005.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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