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Israel rejects Palestinian statehood bid via the UN

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a new Palestinian plan to seek unilateral statehood through a UN Security Council vote. Palestinian leaders say the US and Israel leave them with no other option.

By Ilene R. PrusherStaff writer / November 15, 2009

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Saban Forum in Jerusalem November 15, 2009. Netanyahu said on Sunday there was no alternative to negotiations to secure peace and that any unilateral moves by the Palestinians would unravel past agreements.

Debbie Hill/Reuters

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Jerusalem

Palestinian Authority leaders say that they are launching a new diplomatic campaign to gain international backing for a Palestinian state, after which they will unilaterally declare statehood in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem – without waiting for a peace treaty with Israel.

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Israel pushed back Sunday, issuing a warning that such a declaration of statehood would destroy previous peace agreements and goodwill.

The already rocky road to peace talks – which the US and other international mediators have for months been trying to coax Israelis and Palestinians back onto – just got rougher.

The statehood push comes just 10 days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the he would not seek office in the next Palestinian elections, and phrased his announcement as an effective threat of resignation not just from office but the peace process itself. Israeli intransigence and US ineffectiveness over Israeli settlements were largely to blame, he said.

Now, Mr. Abbas plans to actively solicit worldwide support for a declaration of Palestinian statehood, irrespective of any negotiations with Israel.

Statehood by UN vote

Abbas' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said in an interview this weekend with the newspaper al-Ayyam that the Palestinian leader was going to turn to the UN Security Council to obtain recognition of a Palestinian state through a vote. In launching this campaign for statehood, aides said Abbas would travel to Cairo Wednesday to discuss the idea with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, after which he would visit other regions – including Europe and Latin America – to shore up support.

The move could be a spark for stalled peacemaking efforts, or it could itself spur further conflict between Palestinians and Israelis – who view the Palestinian proposal to unilaterally declare statehood as an out-and-out threat. Either way, the latest Palestinian moves show the extent to which the Palestinian leadership is frayed by the last few frustrating weeks of failed diplomacy, and appears to have lost faith in a US-brokered peace process bringing genuine results.

"The Israelis impeded negotiations, and therefore we are left with only this option in order to safeguard our national project," says Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Council in Ramallah.

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