Daily Israel Report

PA Vows Unilateral Moves; Obama: It's a Mistake

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas vows to go to the UN if Israel doesn't sit down and negotiate with Hamas; Obama says, "it's a mistake."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 5/26/2011, 9:57 PM / Last Update: 5/27/2011, 1:14 AM

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The Palestinian Authority vowed Wednesday to push ahead with plans to seek UN backing as long as talks are off the agenda, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to warn it would be a “mistake,” Agence France-Presse reported.

“I strongly believe for the Palestinians to take the United Nations route rather than the path of sitting down and talking with the Israelis is a mistake,” Obama said in London at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The PA has been pursuing a strategy of setting preconditions and refusing to talk while seeking to secure UN recognition of PA statehood based on the 1949 armistice lines, drawing sharp criticism from Israel and Washington.

“The only way we are going to see a Palestinian state is if Israelis and Palestinians agree on a just peace,” Obama said, asserting peace would only work if both sides agreed to a “wrenching compromise.”

Reuters quoted Obama as telling reporters he believed a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine was achievable.

“My goal, as I set out in a speech I gave last week, is a Jewish state of Israel that is safe and secure and recognized by its neighbors and a sovereign state of Palestine in which the Palestinian people are able to determine their own fate and their own future,” Obama told a news conference in London.

“I am confident that can be achieved.”

Obama’s remarks came after a week of high-level debate on the Israeli-Arab conflict which has left the prospects of a revival of peace talks more remote than ever. 

PA: Talk Or Else!
Earlier on Wednesday, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned unless there was a fresh round of peace negotiations despite the inclusion of Hamas in his government, the PA would head to the UN in September in the hope of being accepted as a full member of the world body, AFP reported.

“Our first choice is negotiations but if there is no progress before September, we will go to the United Nations,” Abbas said the day after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu outlined his views on a peace deal with the PA in an applause-generating speech to the US Congress.

Many observers maintain the inclusion of Hamas in the PA government allows Abbas to demand talks for public relations purposes knowing Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel, or agree to talks itself, makes such talks an existential impossibility for Israel.

Abbas has yet to remove his own preconditions for negotiations: the release of all PA security prisoners in Israeli custody and a cessation of all Israeli building in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech... contained many errors and distortions and was a long way from the peace process,” Abbas told reporters at the start of a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee in the Samaria town of Ramallah.