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Palestinians mull alternatives to peace talks, including UN recognition

Palestinians are discussing other options if peace talks fail. Chief among them is seeking recognition as a sovereign state from the UN.

By Correspondent / October 20, 2010

Bulldozers work at a construction site in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, Oct. 15.

Bernat Armangue/AP

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Tel Aviv

With Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in limbo over a dispute regarding settlement expansion, Palestinians are starting to think out loud about possible alternatives to peace talks.

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After investing all of his political capital in talks with Israel, what would President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) do if he concludes there's no chance for a deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

Scenarios range from a new armed uprising against Israel, to a dissolution of the PA, to a renewed drive for a unity government with Hamas – all of which would ratchet up uncertainty in the Middle East and complicate efforts to resume talks.

But the most likely alternative appears to be a diplomatic campaign seeking recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations Security Council.

Though the Palestinian leadership still hopes the US can broker a renewal of talks, "It's a legitimate question to ask: 'What if this doesn't work,' " says Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian government in the West Bank. "If this fails, why don't we look into direct support by the international community to establish this state?"

Potential UN move: Resolution, or legal decision?

A political appeal to the United Nations on statehood has the potential to deepen Israel's growing isolation, especially if the Obama administration wanted to reprimand Jerusalem for not agreeing to an extension of its moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank.

The Palestinians would have to choose whether to seek a mainly declarative resolution on future statehood or a more far-reaching legal decision unilaterally imposing a final-status solution on Israel and the Palestinians.

In a strategy paper from December 2009, a team led by Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote that Palestinians could also seek Security Council endorsement for the parameters of an eventual deal – such as identifying the 1967 border as a basis for a territorial compromise. The paper called this "a more likely option'' than an imposed solution.

UN endorsement of the Arab League peace initiative offering a full normalization with Israel in return for a full withdrawal from occupied lands is yet another option.

Serious intent, or a tactic?

Last week in Egypt, Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei declared that "all the options are open to us," including "armed resistance" and reconciling a three-year rift with the Hamas government in Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reported. He also mentioned the possibility of UN recognition of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood.

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