News / Middle East

    Israelis, Palestinians Argue Their Case

    A section of the controversial Israeli barrier is seen from Jerusalem and shows the Shuafat refugee camp (R) in the West Bank near Jerusalem, and Pisgat Zeev (L) in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war (File P
    A section of the controversial Israeli barrier is seen from Jerusalem and shows the Shuafat refugee camp (R) in the West Bank near Jerusalem, and Pisgat Zeev (L) in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war (File P
    Michael Bowman

    On the eve of a U.N. Security Council meeting expected to consider a Palestinian petition for statehood, Israeli and Palestinian officials remain deadlocked over whether and under what terms negotiations should resume.

    Israelis and Palestinians took their arguments to the American people on Sunday in a bid to explain their respective positions. At a minimum, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ actions at the United Nations last week dramatically refocused the world’s attention on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seizing the spotlight at the General Assembly meeting and sparking a flurry of activity among the Middle East Quartet, comprising the U.S., U.N., European Union, and Russia.

    Returning to the West Bank from New York, Abbas told jubilant crowds that a “Palestinian Spring” has begun with the bid for statehood. The United States has threatened to use its veto power in the Security Council to block the Palestinian request for U.N. membership.

    Appearing on U.S. television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to blast the Palestinians' U.N. bid.

    “The Palestinians want a state, but they have to give peace in return," he said. "What they are trying to do in the United Nations is to get a state without giving Israel peace and security, and I think that is wrong. That should not succeed.”

    Hanan Ashrawi (File)
    Hanan Ashrawi (File)

    Netanyahu spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program. He repeated his call for immediate peace talks. Palestinians say negotiations are futile. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi appeared on ABC’s This Week television program.

    “For the last 20 years, we have been negotiating, ad nauseam, with a process that has no relationship to reality," she said.

    Ashrawi said Palestinians will not negotiate while Israel continues to build Jewish settlements and refuses to honor borders that existed before Israel gained control of Palestinian territories in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

    But Prime Minister Netanyahu insists fruitful negotiations are possible.

    “It is possible that you insist on the things that make life possible for the Jewish state, and make peace possible," he said. "The core of the conflict is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel in any boundary. A peace that is based on lies will crash. I am responsible for the fate of the one and only Jewish state. And I am not going to recklessly feed more territory to the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam.

    Hanan Ashrawi says it is Israeli intransigence that has long stood in the way of peace.

    “Israel has placed so many pre-conditions. It wants to annex Jerusalem. It wants to remove the [Palestinian] refugees from the agenda. It wants to keep its troops in the Jordan valley. It wants everything, and then says ‘Let’s talk’.  No, these are unacceptable pre-conditions," she said. "Either you negotiate in good faith and act accordingly in order to achieve the two-state solution, or this option will no longer be available, particularly given the Arab Spring. This is a new phase, a new ballgame.”

    Security Council veto threats do not appear to have dampened Palestinian enthusiasm or anticipation surrounding the bid for U.N. statehood recognition, nor led Palestinian officials to embrace Middle East Quartet calls for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks.

    For Monday, the Security Council’s official agenda lists several morning meetings and consultations regarding Libya. Consultations on admission of new members will come in the afternoon, New York time.

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