Israel engaged in last-ditch efforts
Updated: 2011-09-20 11:43
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta welcomes Israel's Minister of Defense Ehud Barak (L) to the Pentagon in Washington September 19, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
JERUSALEM - With the clock ticking down to the United Nations vote on a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood, Israel and world leaders are engaged in back channel diplomacy to get the Palestinians to withdraw their bid and return to the negotiating table.
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, when he is expected to ask the UN Security Council (UNSC) to vote on a resolution recognizing an independent Palestinian state.
Israel and the United States oppose the move and argue that peace can only be achieved through negotiations. Washington has made it clear that the United States will veto the Palestinian request if it is submitted to the UN Security Council.
However, in an effort to avert the diplomatic crisis, the United States and other members of the Middle East Quartet -- the UN, the European Union (EU) and Russia -- met on Sunday to draft a statement calling for Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations, which have been stalled since last October.
According to Israeli media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to alter some of his previous demands to give the Quartet more leeway on issues such as the borders of the Palestinian state and the demand that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Local analysts believe that the Palestinian statehood bid is almost inevitable, although Israel and the Quartet haven't stopped last-ditch efforts for a diplomatic solution.
Netanyahu unveiled at Sunday's cabinet session his planned moves this week and the main points of his address at the UN on Friday.
"My trip to the United States has two goals: to ensure that the Palestinian move is blocked at the Security Council and to put Israel's case against Palestinian statehood before the General Assembly and present the truth: our desire for peace and the fact that we are not strangers in this land, that we have rights dating back 4,000 years," Netanyahu told his ministers.
He is scheduled to leave Israel on Tuesday and meet with US President Barack Obama Wednesday, prior to the latter's address at the UN. The prime minister also plans to meet world leaders in yet another effort to convince them to press the Palestinians to return to direct peace talks.
In another effort to reach a compromise, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad in New York on Sunday. The latter reportedly is not in favor of a unilateral declaration of statehood.
At least seven Israeli ministers and deputy ministers have already been in the United States, where they are scheduled to be interviewed by a host of national and foreign media.
The members of the Middle East Quartet said Sunday it is not too late to block the UN vote.
"There's still a way to prevent a conflict. At the end of the day, the only way to arrive at a Palestinian state is via negotiations," Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair said in a TV interview.
He expressed hope that a scenario in which the United States would be forced to use its veto power in the Security Council would not materialize.
The Palestinian envoy to Germany, Saleh Abed al-Shafi, said Sunday the PNA will skip the Security Council if European states guarantee their support for Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly.