JERUSALEM The United States would veto a Palestinian declaration of statehood in the United Nations Security Council, U.S. senators visiting Israel said Monday.
They said the threat by Palestinian officials to take the issue to a United Nations resolution was a waste of time and would go nowhere. They urged Arab states to stop it. "It would be D.O.A. - dead on arrival," Democratic Party Senator Ted Kaufman (DE) told a news conference in Jerusalem. "It's a waste of time."
Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT), an independent, said "an essentially unilateral" declaration of statehood was the one thing that would not move the stalled peace process forward.
"I hope and presume that the United States would veto such a move if it ever came to the Security Council," Lieberman said. The only way to end the Middle East conflict was an agreement reached through bilateral negotiations, he added.
The Palestinians should "give the new government of Israel an opportunity at the negotiating table," he said.
Without setting a timeframe, Palestinian officials Sunday said the Palestinian leadership planned to go to the U.N. in an effort to secure international support for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
They said the move was born of frustration at the lack of progress in peace talks, stalled for a year with no sign of any end to the deadlock over Palestinian demands that Israel freeze building of settlements on occupied land in the West Bank.
STICK TO NEGOTIATIONS
Israel reacted quickly, warning that a negotiated peace agreement was the only solution to the conflict, while declaring a state without it would lead to Israeli counter-measures that could include annexation of more West Bank territory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was "no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel's side."
Monday, however, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said moves were already under way to seek a decision from the U.N. Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state.
He said Israel had for 18 years continued to "impose facts on ground by stealing Palestinian lands and build settlements and barriers aiming to finish off the two-state project."
U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) said a "unilateral" declaration by the Palestinians "would take a desperate situation and make it more chaotic."
"Now is the time for the Arab leadership of this world to step forward and urge the President of the Palestinian Authority to sit down with this new government and see where it goes," Graham said.
(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)