RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinians plan to go to the U.N. Security Council in an effort to secure international support for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials said on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against any “unilateral” moves by the Palestinians.
Palestinians attributed the move to frustration at the lack of progress in peace talks with Israel, which have been stalled for a year.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said there was no time frame for the initiative, backed by Arab governments, to secure backing for the state with East Jerusalem as its capital. “When we are ready, we will go,” he told Reuters.
His remarks prompted a warning from Netanyahu, who said only peace negotiations with Israel would secure a Palestinian state.
“There is 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,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu, who was addressing a forum on the Middle East in Jerusalem, did not directly refer to the Palestinians’ plan to take their quest for statehood to the U.N. Security Council.
Erekat said the Palestinians did not intend to declare independence but to seek international support to “preserve the two-state solution.”
“Israel should refrain from any unilateral steps on its part, because what they do today is nothing but unilateral steps,” he added, listing West Bank settlement expansion among other Palestinian complaints.
Despite months of diplomacy, the United States has failed to broker a resumption of talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli government led by Netanyahu, who on Sunday repeated his call for a swift resumption of the talks.
Abbas has stuck by his demand for a total halt to Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank before any return to peace talks. He has resisted recent U.S. pressure to resume negotiations right away.
Head of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, Abbas aims to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Mohammed Dahlan, a senior official in Abbas’s Fatah faction, told reporters that the diplomatic initiative would be “a real test of the intentions of the international community.”
He added: “If the American administration does not agree, that will be another setback.”
Netanyahu reiterated his position that any future Palestinian state must be demilitarized and its borders must be monitored to prevent the smuggling of weapons.
The United States, which had called for a freeze of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, eased the pressure in September by calling only for “restraint,” in a change of policy that frustrated the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership.
In the event of failure at the Security Council, where the United States wields veto power, Dahlan said other options included a unilateral declaration of statehood and “popular, comprehensive resistance against settlement and the occupation.”
He did not spell out what that might entail. In the past two decades, the Palestinians have twice launched uprisings in the occupied territories.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who in June set a goal of establishing the institutions of a state within two years, said it was time for the international community to take responsibility for “the mission of ending the occupation.”
“This is the responsibility of the international community and when we talk about that and international law, of course we are talking about the United Nations,” he said in Ramallah.
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Ari Rabinovitch and Eli Berlzon in Jerusalem; Writing by Tom Perry and Joseph Nasr; editing by Ralph Boulton