Palestinians apply to join UN institutions
Israeli officials say move is intended to improve Palestinian side of possible deal; convicted spy Jonathan Pollard waives parole hearing, U.S. parole commission official says.
The Palestinian Authority applied on Tuesday to join 15 UN institutions, amid U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's last-ditch effort to revive peace talks with Israel.
Meanwhile, White house spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. President Barack Obama has not yet made a decision whether to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. "He was convicted for espionage," Carney said on Tuesday. "There are a lot of things happening but I am not going to get ahead of that."
In a surprise address at a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's action committee, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he had signed 12 documents that the PA would use to apply to join the UN institutions.
Israeli officials said Jerusalem estimates that Abbas' step is an attempt to exert last-minute pressure on Israel and the United States to improve the Palestinian side of the deal to extend the peace talks, which were due to end on April 29. The Prime Minister's Office has yet to comment on the matter.
Before signing the documents, Abbas asked the members of the PLO leadership in attendance to vote yea or nay - and the vote was unanimously in favor. Abbas then signed the papers.
Abbas said the leadership made its decision after Israel did not commit to releasing a fourth round of prisoners.
"We don't want to clash with the U.S. administration, but we are left with no choice," Abbas said. "Secretary of State John Kerry made great efforts and I met with him 39 times since the beginning of the negotiations. We are not working against anyone but we have no other option."
Abbas added: "It is our right to turn to UN institutions and we had postponed it for nine months and never agreed to give up that right." The Palestinian premier said, however, that the leadership still seeks a solution to the conflict, through negotiations and through popular resistance.
A Palestinian official told Haaretz that the first document signed by Abbas was a petition to join the Geneva Convention, followed by institutions that have to do with human rights and civilian protection. He noted that the Palestinians have not yet made a request to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
The official said the Palestinian leadership agreed to give the U.S. mediation efforts 24 hours. Regarding the new tenders Israel issued for construction beyond the Green Line, in Gilo, the official said: "Israel wants to sabotage Kerry's [efforts] and thinks that the Palestinians are too weak to take a stand."
Pollard declines hearing
Meanwhile, a member of the U.S. parole commission said on Tuesday that Pollard has waived a planned parole hearing.
Commissioner Patricia Smoot says the hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday. A parole commission administrator, Stephen Husk, says the hearing was to have been held at the prison in Butner, North Carolina, and that Pollard, who is imprisoned there, would have attended. Husk declined further comment.
On Tuesday morning, Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sealed most of the details of the deal to extend peace talks in their meeting, senior Israeli officials said.
The U.S. is now working to secure the Palestinians' approval for the deal. "Things are not sealed yet but we are not far from it," said a senior Israeli official with knowledge of the negotiation details. "We are waiting for the Palestinians' response."
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