Palestinian statehood bid adds urgency for Israeli-Palestinian peace
Quartet envoy Tony Blair held talks today to prod Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table amid concern about a looming UN vote on Palestinian statehood.
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Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US, said on Tuesday that the United Nations membership bid is a "contravention" of the territory-for-peace principle that has guided Mideast peacemaking since Israel conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. He said that were the bid to succeed, it would be an "immense blow" to the peace process because it would hamper Abbas's ability to sell a deal to his people in the future.Skip to next paragraph
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"Mahmoud Abbas is going to come back to his people and say, you’re going to have to make some painful sacrifices. But you're going to get something in return – you're going to get a Palestinian state," he said, speaking at a Monitor breakfast in Washington. "The Palestinian people are going to look at him and say, 'Well, wait a minute, we already have a Palestinian state. Why are you making all these painful sacrifices?' "
While Mr. Oren and other Israeli officials insist on direct negotiations as the only path to peace, Palestinian leaders are exasperated with nearly two decades of talks that have yet to deliver the independence they have long sought.
From the beginning of the Oslo peace process in 1993, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which Palestinians see as jeopardizing their aspirations for a state on the same land, has nearly tripled to more than 300,000. The Jewish presence in East Jerusalem has also expanded in smaller but strategic ways; in recent weeks, Israel has advanced plans for two new neighborhoods that critics say would compromise the contiguity of Palestinian areas.
As Palestinians watch the US support the democratic aspirations of fellow Arabs from Tunisia to Syria this year, they seek similar American support for their own cause. Instead, the US has threatened to veto the Palestinian statehood bid on the United Nations Security Council, which could come as soon as Nov. 11.
"This runs totally contrary to the principle upon which this country was founded," said Maen Rashid Areikat, the chief of the Palestinian mission to the US, in a Monitor interview this week. "You don’t oppose the quest of a nation for freedom and independence to satisfy domestic political objectives.’’
"[America] is much more important and larger than being handicapped or constrained by domestic politics," said Mr. Areikat, speaking at his Washington office. But it's not just American ideals such as liberty, justice, equality, and human dignity that are being called into question, he added; American interests are also at stake – a point top US officials, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have made in recent years.