Ahead of Thursday's Vote

U.S.: Palestinian UN Bid Is a 'Mistake,' Negotiations Are Only Way Forward

State Department statement comes after Israeli official says efforts to soften wording of General Assembly resolution on Palestinian status have failed.

The United States on Tuesday reiterated its opposition to the Palestinian bid to upgrade its United Nations status to that of non-member observer, two days before the General Assembly was to vote on the draft resolution.

"We think it's going to be a mistake," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Nuland confirmed that Israeli negotiator Isaac Molcho met with U.S. special envoy for the Middle East David Hale in Washington. She declined to provide any details about their discussions, but reiterated the U.S. administration's objection to the Palestinians' step.

"With regard to France and any other countries, we obviously disagree with our oldest ally on this issue," she said, referring to France's statement on Tuesday that it would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status." They know that we disagree with them," she said, "but it's their sovereign decision to make how to proceed."

Nuland added: "There's no question in our mind that the Palestinians understand our position on this. We share the concern that we have not been able to move forward. It is in that spirit that we have been encouraging President Abbas to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis without preconditions. That's the way to take this forward, not in the GA."

Also on Tuesday, pro-Israel leftist lobby J Street urged the U.S. administration "to fill the diplomatic vacuum and to launch, in early 2013, a renewed and bold diplomatic initiative to achieve a two-state solution" – this, it said, instead of punishing the Palestinians by freezing its economic aid.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli official said that American-Israeli efforts to soften the wording of the General Assembly resolution had failed.

Haaretz has learned that the push did not succeed because the Palestinians refused to add a clause to the draft that would prevent them from filing criminal charges against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Palestinians distributed the final draft of the General Assembly resolution early on Tuesday morning in New York and are refusing to pursue any further discussions on the matter.

Over the past two days, the United States has made attempts to alter the wording of the resolution in order to minimize the political damage that will likely result from the General Assembly vote, in which the Palestinians are expected to garner a large majority.

AP