Israel sees U.N. majority for Palestine status upgrade
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Palestinians' bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations would find majority support there but would not bring them closer to statehood and peace with Israel, Israel's U.N. envoy said on Sunday.
Citing stalled peacemaking and Israeli settlement-building on occupied West Bank land where they seek sovereign independence, the Palestinians said on Saturday they would renew a bid to win U.N. recognition as a state.
Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, accused the Palestinians of trying to recapture international attention that has shifted to crises in Iran, Egypt and Syria.
"There is an attempt (by the Palestinians) to make unilateral moves in order to internationalize the conflict," Prosor told Israel Radio in a telephone interview.
"But beyond what are perhaps the feelings of frustration, it is important to remember that the path to peace really is through the negotiating table with Israel."
The Palestinians want to found a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. Though Israel quit Gaza in 2005, it claims East Jerusalem as its capital - a move not recognized abroad - and says it would keep swathes of West Bank settlements under any peace deal. The United Nations deems the settlements illegal.
Full U.N. membership for Palestine would require approval by the Security Council, where Israel's ally, the United States, would likely wield its veto given its demand the Palestinians set up their state in agreement with the Jewish state.
So the Palestinians, in what they describe as an interim move, plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly next month to accord them non-member observer status, which would allow them to join a number of U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court.
The Palestinians are currently a U.N. observer "entity" with no voting rights. A similar statehood upgrade drive last year proved short-lived amid financial sanctions and diplomatic counter-lobbying by Israel and the United States.
Prosor said the Palestinians have a "guaranteed majority" in the 193-member General Assembly - enough to bestow non-member observer status, which the envoy predicted would be used "to hurt us (Israel)" in various international forums.
Israel has accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of going to the United Nations to evade negotiations that would entail both territorial compromise and that he reassert control over Gaza, which he lost in a 2007 civil war to Hamas Islamists hostile to the Jewish state.
"In essence, Abu Mazen (Abbas) today has zero control in Gaza," Prosor said in separate remarks to Israel's Army Radio, adding that the Palestinians' U.N. campaign "will change nothing on the ground".
Palestinians have made a freeze on Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a condition for returning to peace talks. Israel cites biblical and historical ties to the areas and says the settlement issue should be decided in negotiations.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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