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PA Continues to Prepare for Unilateral Declaration of State

The Palestinian Authority is continuing to lay groundwork for declaration of statehood next year with or without a negotiated peace with Israel.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 12/19/2010, 2:18 PM / Last Update: 12/19/2010, 2:33 PM

Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority is continuing its drive to unilaterally declare independent statehood next year, with or without a negotiated settlement with Israel.

PA spokesman Nabil Shaath continued to lay the public relations groundwork Saturday by telling reporters the peace process with Israel is in a “deep coma” and that U.S. proposals for negotiations are “totally useless.”

While PA officials are talking up the “uselessness” of final status negotiations, others are working on building up diplomatic ties with South America. A third group is working on a resolution for the United Nations Security Council.

Fayyad: Plan for August 2011 Independence on Course
Meanwhile, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad remains steady at the helm, telling listeners in an interview broadcast Saturday on Israel’s Channel 2 television “we should not be discouraged because we have failed so many times before.”

Fayyad vowed in a speech delivered in Ramallah more than a year ago that he would unilaterally declare the PA to be an independent sovereign entity in August 2011 if no final status agreement was reached with Israel by that time.

On Saturday, however, Fayyad phrased the plan a little differently: “We are looking for a State of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.” The PA prime minister set concrete plans in motion for such a state more than a year ago, with the approval of the United States.

Since that time, however, PA officials went further, having taken the initiative and asked most Asian and Latin American nations to recognize the entity as an independent, sovereign state. Moreover, the PA has also formally requested for the first time that European countries recognize a Palestinian state, should one be declared – even in the absence of a final status agreement with the State of Israel.

The Fayyad government last week officially contacted Britain, France, Sweden and Denmark with a request to formally recognize a State of Palestine along Israel’s 1949 Armistice borders.

PA and Arab Nations Working on UN Resolution
U.N. representatives of Arab states and the PA have been busy in New York drafting a resolution to be submitted to the U. N. Security Council that would force Israel to halt Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem demanded by the PA for its hoped-for country. The resolution may include a call for a boycott of Israeli businesses based in Judea and Samaria, according to media reports.

Members of the Arab bloc in the United Nations reportedly have been meeting in New York since Thursday to work on the resolution. They allegedly expect to have a draft ready to present to the Security Council by the end of this week.

More than a week ago, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned that he was preparing to formally ask the United Nations to recognize the PA as a sovereign independent state called "Palestine." Although Arab League members and notably Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit advised him to wait, it is still not clear whether Abbas has decided to follow their advice.

Although in agreement with PA officials that the U.S.-Israel-PA "peace process" is essentially dead, Arab League members nevertheless recommended the United States come up with firm recommendations for a negotiated final status agreement.

Bolivia Recognizes ‘State of Palestine’
Bolivia has joined three other South American nations by declaring its recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country.

The official notification came in a speech delivered Friday by Bolivian President Evo Morales to the Mercosur Summit, attended by a number of South American heads of state. “Bolivia recognizes Palestine as an independent state along 1967 borders, together with Brazil and Argentina,” announced Morales to a standing ovation by the audience.

The term “1967 border” refers to the 1949 Armistice Lines, often called indefensible "Auschwitz borders", which existed at the end of Israel's [Arab-initiated] War of Independence. These lines were never internationally recognized as borders.  At the end of the 1967 Six Day War, also initiated by the Arabs, lands occupied by Jordan in 1949 were restored to the Jewish State.

Thus far, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela have formally recognized the PA as a sovereign entity, with Uruguay promising to do so in 2011. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that he expects Ecuador to follow with a similar announcement shortly.

Just three days earlier, Norway had upgraded the status of the PA mission in Oslo from a “general delegation” to a “diplomatic mission.” In addition, the head of the PA mission in the country was granted diplomatic immunity.

This follows a similar decision by France in July 2010, when the PA delegation to Paris was raised from that status of “delegation” to a “diplomatic mission” led by an ambassador.

US Congress Rejects Unilateral Moves
The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, unanimously approved on Thursday a resolution opposing the unilateral declaration of a new PA country.

The resolution called on the Obama administration to “deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.”

It also warned PA leaders to “cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process, including efforts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state from other nations, within the United Nations, and in other international forums prior to achievement of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The resolution also called on foreign governments “not to extend such recognition.”

PA Anger at American Reaction
Former PA head negotiator Saeb Erekat responded with anger to the reaction by the U.S. Congress to the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to sidestep the negotiation process, telling an Arab newspaper “we have passed on messages to certain parties that have influence and relations with Israel, informing them that the U.S. Congress should not involve itself in Middle Eastern affairs if it doesn’t have anything positive to say.”

Erekat, who currently represents the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper A-sharq Al-Awsat, “we asked the Americans about what harm there is in countries recognizing the Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, as the Americans themselves are calling for this.

“We also informed them that the Palestinian efforts would continue in this direction… in the sense that we will not stop appealing to countries around the world to recognize the Palestinian state. This is our right and the right of this state.”