Abbas: Settlements Are a Unilateral Step Taken by Israel

PA president responds to Netanyahu's statement in which he urged the Palestinians to refrain from taking one-sided steps toward statehood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not warn him against taking unilateral steps toward statehood when Israel has been building West Bank settlements on its own for decades.

The Palestinian president was referring to Netanyahu's statement on Sunday in which he said the Palestinians have no options for peace except direct negotiations.

abbas - AP - Sept 27 2010

Palestinians have been indicating they might ask for UN recognition of a state of their own if they give up on peace talks.

"Settlements are a unilateral step taken by Israel," Abbas said during a visit to Bethlehem on Monday. "Is there anything clearer than settlements and invasions and roadblocks and all that has been done on Palestinian land?"

Given that reality, Abbas said, Netanyahu should not lecture the Palestinians about a step they might take in the future, "which is to resort to the United Nations."

"We expect the Palestinians to fulfill their commitment to hold the direct talks. I think that any attempt to circumvent them by going to international bodies is not realistic and it will not advance the real diplomatic process," Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Peace talks that began in Washington on September 2 are in limbo over Palestinian demands for a freeze of Israeli construction on land they want for a state and Netanyahu's refusal to reinstate limits on building in settlements in the West Bank after a 10-month settlement construction freeze expired on September 26.

The impasse has raised speculation the Palestinians might abandon negotiations with Israel and launch a diplomatic campaign to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international organizations.

Last week, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said that if peace efforts with Israel failed, Palestinian aspirations for statehood should not be "held hostage" to Israeli consent.