PA says UN still goal for September 25May11 May 26, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  25 May 2011

The Palestinian leadership reaffirmed its goal to take the issue of statehood to the United Nations after a speech by the Israeli premier which failed to offer any new incentive to talk peace.

In a 45-minute address to the US Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu laid out his vision of peace in a speech which pundits said contained nothing to deter the Palestinians from plans to seek UN recognition for their state later this year or to revive the moribund peace process.

Officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah said the speech offered nothing new and only added more “obstacles” on the path to peace, while Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers said Netanyahu had laid down conditions which were “impossible” for the Palestinians to meet.

“There is nothing new in Netanyahu’s speech except that he is adding obstacles on the road towards a genuine, serious, lasting and comprehensive peace,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peace, he said, required international benchmarks such as the recognition of the borders of 1967 as the basis for any peace negotiations — an idea which has been repeatedly rejected by Netanyahu in a series of addresses over the past four days.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior official of Abbas’s Fatah movement, told AFP the address revealed the “true face” of Netanyahu and his ruling right-wing Likud party, which he described as “a danger to regional stability and international peace.”

And Taher An-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip told AFP it proved Netanyahu “doesn’t want any peace process and that he is setting impossible conditions for the Palestinians to meet.”

Netanyahu, he charged, was “trying to deceive the world by speaking of the possibility of recognizing a Palestinian state while destroying its foundations” by rejecting a return to the 1967 borders, by refusing to give up annexed East Jerusalem and by ruling out any return for the refugees.

The Israeli leader had been expected to make some kind of gesture to prevent the Palestinians from pursuing a diplomatic campaign to win UN recognition for their promised state within the 1967 borders in a move expected to take place in September.

But his speech only left them more determined.

“After the Netanyahu speech, the Palestinians have only one choice — to go to the UN in September, to the General Assembly,” negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh told AFP of the strategy adopted after the breakdown of peace talks late last year.

Instead of offering a carrot, Netanyahu suggested a stick, urging anyone interested in resolving the decades-old conflict to “forcefully” oppose the Palestinian bid for UN recognition.

“The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace,” he said. “It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.”

The Israeli leader also took aim at the recently-signed reconciliation deal between Abbas’ secular Fatah movement and Hamas, which does not recognize the Jewish state, urging the Palestinian president to abandon the deal.

“I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas. Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish state. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations — it will will be the first.”

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed his remarks as “arrogant.”

“The true response to this arrogant speech which denies Palestinian rights should be the complete ending of all negotiation and the implementation of reconciliation as soon as possible,” he told AFP.

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