Palestinians seek European recognition
Move seen as way to pressure Israel amid stalled talks
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians have asked European countries to recognize an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — a new step in the campaign to pursue statehood outside the framework of a peace deal with Israel.
Peace talks with Israel have been deadlocked since September, prompting Palestinians to start exploring alternative ways forward.
The campaign by President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank government aims to pressure Israel, though it will likely change nothing on the ground as long as Israel remains opposed.
Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said yesterday that he asked representatives of several European Union countries to recognize the truce lines before the 1967 Mideast war as the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.
Officials from two of the countries, however, said he made no formal request. One said he merely praised other countries who had taken the step. All officials spoke on condition on anonymity under diplomatic protocol.
Israel captured the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem — areas where the Palestinians want to establish an independent state — though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
Brazil and Argentina, minor players in the Middle East, recently recognized a Palestinian state, as have countries in the Arab world and Africa. Several European countries have upgraded diplomatic relations with the Palestinians, but it is unclear how far the international community will go.
The United States and the European Union have not recognized an independent Palestinian state, saying peace can only be reached through negotiations.
Last week, EU foreign ministers said they would recognize a Palestinian state “when appropriate, emphasizing the need for a negotiated settlement.
The latest round of peace talks, launched in early September, broke down three weeks later after a limited Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.
The Palestinians said they will not resume direct negotiations as long as Israel continues to build homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying the construction is a sign of bad faith.
Unable to coax a renewed settlement freeze out of Israel, the United States is now shuttling between the sides in indirect talks.
Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, rejected the Palestinian attempts to seek unilateral recognition, saying peace can only be reached through negotiations.
“Turning your back on dialogue is turning your back on peace,’’ he said.
Abbas said he prefers a negotiated settlement, but he has been pursuing alternatives with increasing vigor.
The Palestinians said they doubt they can reach a peace deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads a coalition of hard-line nationalist and religious parties.
Yesterday, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh suggested yet another strategy: Asking the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement activity.
He said the decision to approach the Security Council “was made after deep study following the failure of all efforts to get the Israeli government to stop settlement activities.’’
Palestinian officials had previously talked of seeking UN recognition of a state inside the 1967 lines.
While they could presumably win a majority in the General Assembly, the bigger prize of recognition by the Security Council, whose decisions are legally binding, would likely face a United States veto.
The United States routinely vetoes measures Israel considers hostile, and the House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday “condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state.’’