Israeli and Palestinian envoys squared off on Tuesday over plans to seek UN recognition of a state of Palestine in September, which Israel rejected as an attempt to bypass direct peace talks.
Speaking at a regular meeting of the UN Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said seeking UN recognition would not hurt the peace process and would instead strengthen efforts to achieve a negotiated "two-state solution."
"The consecration of the two-state solution in bold resolutions -- including recognition of the state of Palestine…on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and its admission as a full member of the organization -- will help to make the two-state solution more inevitable," he said.
Mansour did not spell out what exactly his delegation plans to propose during the annual gathering of world leaders in September at the opening of a new session of the 193-nation UN General Assembly.
Western diplomats say the Palestinians have not yet decided whether to seek membership in the UN as a sovereign state or press for a non-binding resolution recognizing a Palestinian state without UN membership.
The United States, like its ally Israel, opposes the idea of full Palestinian membership in the UN at the moment and has made clear it would use Washington's veto power on the Security Council to block it.
Israel and the U.S. say Palestinian statehood, including UN membership, should come at the end of a negotiated peace process.
Mansour later told journalists he looked forward to legislative action in the new General Assembly session opening in September and that UN membership was an "ultimate objective" but he gave no details.
Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor made clear the Jewish state was strongly opposed to the Palestinian push at the UN. "Now is the time for the international community to tell the Palestinian leadership what it refuses to tell its own people -- there are no shortcuts to statehood," he told the 15-nation council. "You cannot bypass the only path to peace.
"The Palestinians will have to make compromises and make hard choices," Prosor said. "They will have to get off the bandwagon of unilateralism and back to the hard work of direct peacemaking."
The Palestinians, who have UN "observer" status, previously pledged to seek UN endorsement in September for their claim of sovereignty in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The move has gained momentum with the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The Arab League formally backed this plan in May.
But in the face of opposition from Israel and a number of major powers who say only negotiations can solve the conflict, the Palestinians later signaled they might opt for a more limited upgrade to "non-member state" status, which requires only General Assembly approval.
Mansour referred to U.S. President Barack Obama's May 19 speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Obama expressed support for a two-state peace deal based on 1967 lines with land swaps, as "bold." But he said the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the UN -- had missed an opportunity at a July 11 meeting in Washington to set guidelines for renewed peace talks because it been "held hostage by (Israel's) intransigence."
The Palestinians have refused to resume peace talks unless Israel renews a moratorium on settlement building in occupied territory, something Israel has rejected.
Israel reacted coldly to Obama's reference to the 1967 lines, which the Jewish state says are indefensible, but Prosor told journalists on Tuesday the U.S. president's speech could serve as "a base" for negotiations.
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