The Palestinian Authority plans to ask the United Nations to force Israel into renewing a freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
According to a report published by the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, the plan is backed by Egypt, which supports a joint Arab initiative to demand the U.N. unilaterally grant statehood to the PA.
Such a plan has been on the table for months; PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described a similar initiative in a public speech earlier in the year, and warned he would unilaterally declare statehood by August 2011 if talks were not brought to a successful conclusion by that time.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted to the report at a Likud faction meeting Monday evening, saying such a move would "enact a price from both sides" and would not resolve the conflict.
Former PA prime minister and chief negotiator Sa’eb Erekat, told Ma’an Radio on Monday there is no intent to deliberately sabotage final status talks – rather, the issue was one of ending Israel’s presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Approximately 300,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria.
“When we talk about alternatives, this doesn’t mean failing talks,” he said. “We want them to succeed. The issue is not easy and negotiation is a tool that is used to solve problems, not a goal in itself. If Israel made the talks fail, then we will go to the other options.”
Erekat reiterated the PA’s desire to create its new country based on Israel’s 1949-1967 borders – including much of Jerusalem – and rejected proposals by Netanyahu for transitional stages to a final status agreement.
The PA refused to resume direct talks with Israel when the government did not extend a 10-month freeze on Jewish construction that expired on September 26. The freeze, which Netanyahu imposed at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama, came in response to a demand by the PA, without which it refused to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.
Despite Israel’s cooperation, the PA was largely unwilling to participate in direct talks until just a few short weeks before the freeze was set to expire – and then demanded it be extended as a condition for its continued participation in peace talks.
Netanyahu told Likud members Monday evening that a renewal of the freeze is "not being discussed." He also denied the existence of any current offer from the United States -- as had been reported by various media -- listing specific benefits to be gained if Israel would agree to a 60-day renewal of the moratorium on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.