Déjà vu: 'Unilateral' Palestinian Statehood

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israel Radio on Sunday the PA plans to seek U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

"We have made a decision. We will ask the Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state as an independent entity, with Jerusalem as its capital and with its borders being those of 1967," Erekat said.

The purpose of the move, he said, is "to keep hope alive" for the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the PA's announcement, saying negotiations are the only way to move the peace process forward.

"There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and any unilateral attempts outside that framework will unravel the existing agreements between us and could entail unilateral steps by Israel," the prime minister told Israeli and U.S. participants of the Saban Forum in Jerusalem on Sunday evening.

"We are prepared to take important steps to achieve a true peace, bring an end to the conflict and, of course, to ensure Israel's security," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting were generally unimpressed by the PA's threat.

Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau called the PA initiative "hostile and brazen" and recommended that Israel respond by annexing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

"The initiative is meant to torpedo any chance for negotiations. It must be made clear that any unilateral declaration on their part, which is meant to diminish the chances for negotiations, should be met with annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria," he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman predicted the U.S. would veto the move at the U.N. Security Council.

"A unilateral move must receive the approval of the U.N. Security Council, and the chances for that are low," Lieberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The return to 1967 borders and the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would not end the conflict, but would rather bring the conflict inside Israel," he said.

Not a New Plan

In August 2000, one month after the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat walked out on then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former President Bill Clinton at the second Camp David Summit, Arafat announced his intention to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.

Barak's proposal at the summit included an Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of Judea and Samaria and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian control over east Jerusalem, including most of the Old City, and "religious sovereignty" over the Temple Mount.

Arafat, for his part, was asked to renounce terrorism, declare the conflict over and agree to drop any further claims on Israeli territory. The PLO chairman walked out.

One month later, Arafat sanctioned the start of the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising), which lasted well into 2004.

In November 2001, the PLO chairman announced his intention to declare Palestinian statehood before the U.N. General Assembly.

Then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres responded, "If Arafat does this, he will be taking a huge risk because it will be a Palestinian state without borders."

Arafat's successor, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, appears to be navigating the same path.

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