Palestinians consider Mideast talks trump card: declaring statehood
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu offer to extend the moratorium on settlement construction – but only if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians are mulling counteroffers.
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The State Department on Tuesday characterized Netanyahu’s call for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as the Israeli leader’s offer for keeping the peace talks going, and called on the Palestinians to respond by coming up with their own. On Wednesday Palestinian officials called on the US to produce a map that would show where Israel envisions its borders with an independent Palestine.Skip to next paragraph
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The Arab League decided at its weekend meeting to drop its threat to withdraw support for the talks in favor of giving the US a month to try to salvage them. But Areikat says the Palestinians and Arab leaders discussed a number of options for action in the event the five-week-old talks do not resume.
Acknowledging that the ideas raised are all “options that we have in the past contemplated,” Areikat says the proposals range from the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state to declaring an impasse and seeking binding intervention from the United Nations Security Council.
The idea of declaring a Palestinian state is indeed not new: the US already had to dissuade Yasser Arafat from going that route. But it would instantly create an international crisis: first because it would raise to the fore the status of the half-million Israelis who live on occupied Palestinian land, including more than 300,000 in the West Bank. And given the warmer support for such a move from some Security Council members than others, such a declaration would tear apart a body the US is looking to to address other international security issues, including Iran.
The Security Council has in the past approved resolutions addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including resolutions finding Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal and demanding they stop. In the meantime, the Israeli settlement population in the West Bank has tripled since 1993 while fully 60 percent of the West Bank has been rendered “out of use for the Palestinians,” New America’s Levy says.
Areikat says this time would “have to be a different approach” in the Security Council and any resolution would “have to include some power of enforcement,” meaning the council would be asked to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the council to go beyond recommendations to taking action – including armed intervention to enforce international law.
Discussion of such options, including before the Arab League meeting, may explain why the US included a commitment to veto any Security Council action pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among the carrots it extended to Israel to encourage an extension of the settlement freeze.
In any case, it is hard to know if the Palestinians are serious about any of these options or if they are simply attempting to call Israel’s bluff.
The US may try to find out soon, as it gauges prospects for keeping the stalled talks going. State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said Tuesday that while dates have not been set, Mideast envoy George Mitchell is expected to return to the region “in the coming days” to try to find a way forward.