October 25, 2010 JERUSALEM (KATAKAMI / Dispatch.Com) — Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Palestinians yesterday to avoid unilateral action and resume peace talks, a reflection of growing concern that the Palestinian leadership might be inching toward a “Plan B” in which they seek international recognition of an independent state without Israeli agreement.
Talks have stalled, just weeks after their launch, after Israel resumed settlement building in the West Bank after a 10-month moratorium. The Palestinians have said they cannot negotiate with Israel unless the curbs are renewed.
As the stalemate drags on, the Palestinians have said they are considering sidestepping Israel by seeking U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories the Jewish state captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Mideast war.
At the start of the weekly meeting of his cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to “honor their obligation to engage in direct negotiations.”
“I think any attempt to circumvent it by going to international bodies isn’t realistic and won’t advance true peacemaking in any way,” Netanyahu said. “Peace will be achieved only through direct talks.”
Netanyahu said he was in close contact with U.S. mediators in an effort to revive the talks, which were launched at the White House on Sept. 2. He said he remained committed to reaching the outlines of a deal within one year, the target set by the White House.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Netanyahu’s call, saying Israel is acting unilaterally through settlement construction.
“We don’t want to engage in unilateral action,” he said, urging Netanyahu to “stop unilateral actions and engage as a partner in peace by stopping settlement activity.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t expected to take any unilateral action before September 2011. But he already has instructed top aides to begin preparing for options other than a negotiated deal.
The chief alternative, Palestinian officials say, is to pursue U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state.