Bloomberg News

Israel Calls on Palestinians to Abandon UN Bid, Hold Talks

September 20, 2011

(Updates with quote from Regev in second paragraph.)

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Israel called on the Palestinians to abandon their drive for United Nations recognition and restart peace talks as the U.S. and other countries try to work out a compromise aimed at avoiding a Security Council showdown.

Israel is ready to “negotiate at the highest level,” Mark Regev, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, said today, hours after the premier urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to talks this week in New York.

Meeting with Netanyahu in New York is not on Abbas’s agenda, Husam Zomlot, a spokesman for the Palestinian delegation said late yesterday. “This is part of Netanyahu’s routine of playing games,” he said.

Abbas told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday that he plans to ask the Security Council for recognition of a Palestinian state as the organization’s 194th member. The United States has threatened to veto any resolution in the Security Council, a step that would probably alienate the Arab world.

Israeli five-year credit-default swaps, or the cost of protecting government debt against non-payment for the period, rose to 189, the highest level in at least two years, according to data provider CMA, which is owned by CME Group Inc. and compiles prices quoted by dealers in the privately negotiated market.

Talks Collapsed

Peace negotiations collapsed last year following Netanyahu’s refusal to extend a 10-month partial freeze of construction in the West Bank’s Jewish settlements. Abbas has said he won’t resume talks while building continues. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Abbas should restart direct talks though he hasn’t offered to resume the freeze in settlement building.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, representing the so-called Quartet mediating group, are leading a last-minute bid to work out an agreement that might lure Abbas back into talks and avoid a Security Council confrontation. The Quartet is comprised of the U.S., UN, European Union and Russia.

“The idea is to find a formula to restart the peace talks, that is something we support, that is something we are willing to show flexibility to make happen,” Regev said, without giving further details.

No Change

Asked yesterday whether his government might compromise on seeking UN membership, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, said: “Nothing has changed.”

“Abbas has very much lost confidence in Netanyahu and his government’s ability to negotiate seriously and he has made up his mind to go to the Security Council,” Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at the Gaza Strip’s Al-Azhar University, said in a telephone interview. “The only thing that could deter Abbas from going to the Security Council is if a very serious proposal is put on the table, which would mean an Israeli halt of settlement expansion and acceptance of 1967 borders for a two-state solution and I don’t think Netanyahu will accept that.”

The U.S. and Israel are pressing members of the 15-nation Security Council to deny the Palestinians the nine votes they need for membership so the U.S. would not be forced to use its veto, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on record.

If the Palestinians don’t succeed in the Security Council, they can also seek a vote in the larger General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status from an “entity” to a “non-member state.” Palestinian officials have said they expect to gain an overwhelming majority of the vote if they go to the General Assembly.

“It looks like the Palestinians are determined to go through with this, come what may,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

--With assistance from Nicole Gaouette in Washington Flavia Krause-Jackson and Bill Varner in New York. Editors: Louis Meixler, Andrew Atkinson, Ben Holland.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net; Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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