Abbas may circumvent Israel, ask U.S. to recognize Palestinian state
Unilateral declaration considered if peace talks with Israel remain in limbo, though previous pronouncements have been received coolly.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Arab leaders he may seek U.S. recognition for a Palestinian state, which would include all of the West Bank, should peace talks with Israel break down, an aide said on Saturday.
The idea, raised during Arab League deliberations in Libya on Friday, would place new pressure on Israel to extend a recently expired freeze on construction of settlements in the West Bank - a Palestinian condition for continuing recently relaunched direct peace negotiations.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said "alternatives" to the face-to-face talks launched five weeks ago had been discussed, among them "ask(ing) the United States to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders."
"[Another] is to study the possibility of going to the [United Nations] Security Council to get a resolution that calls upon member states to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders," he told Reuters by telephone from the Libyan town of Sirte.
Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip - territory that Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 war. Israel quit Gaza in 2005 but insists on keeping all of Jerusalem and swathes of West Bank settlements under any peace accord.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a partial 10-month freeze on settlement construction last November in what he called a goodwill gesture to get negotiations started.
But Netanyahu, whose coalition government includes pro-settler parties, has resisted international pressure to extend the moratorium past its scheduled expiry last month.
Past proposals for Palestinian statehood to be declared without Israeli consent have been received coolly by the United States and other world powers, who want a negotiated solution though they regard the settlements as illegitimate.
The Palestinians say settlements would deny them a viable state, which they envisage having East Jerusalem as its capital.
"I cannot specify all the alternatives that were presented by President Abbas [to the Arab League], but the president will keep working with the American administration to achieve a full cessation of settlement activities in order to restart talks," Erekat said.