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Israel Warns Palestinians Against Unilateral Steps for Statehood

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from right) at the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, 24 October 2010

The deadlocked peace talks with the Palestinians topped the agenda at Israel's weekly Cabinet meeting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the Palestinians not to take unilateral steps toward establishing an independent state. With peace talks stalled over Jewish settlement expansion, the Palestinians have threatened to bypass Israel and ask the United Nations Security Council to approve Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Netanyahu told his Cabinet that such a move is unacceptable. He said any attempt by the Palestinians to bypass the talks with unilateral steps is "unrealistic" and would harm the peace process.

The Palestinians suspended negotiations after Israel ended a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction four weeks ago. Israel says building will be limited, but it has rejected demands by the international community to extend the moratorium.

Mr. Netanyahu said peace can only be achieved through direct talks, and he urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

But Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot says if Israel continues to expand settlements, there is nothing to talk about.

"If the Israeli government fails to renew and adhere to a full settlement freeze in the occupied territories, it would have turned its back on the path of peace," said Zomlot.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel is "engaged in close contacts with the United States" to try to restart the peace talks. The Arab League says it will give the United States about two more weeks to reach a compromise, and if that fails, it might take the Palestinian issue to the United Nations.