Internal PLO documents show that the Palestinian Authority considered asking the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders as early as a week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in March 2009.
But over the two years since, Palestinian negotiators have repeatedly warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas that such a move could damage Palestinian interests.
Netanyahu is set today to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House - sources in the Prime Minister's Office say he will try to get Obama to help block the Palestinians' move for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. "We believe the United States can stop it," one official said. The Palestinians hope to get UN recognition in September.
Earlier this year, around 1,600 internal documents of the PA negotiating team were leaked to Al Jazeera; only about 100 related to Netanyahu's current term.
A week before Netanyahu took office, Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the other Palestinian leaders received a policy paper titled "Legal approaches to be advanced at the ICC in order to protect overall Palestinian strategy and realize Palestinian rights and interests." The document discusses Palestinian attempts to sue Israel at the International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed during Israel's Gaza offensive in the winter of 2008/09.
One of the ICC's conditions to hear such a lawsuit was recognition of a Palestinian state even as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank.
"This is a potentially significant departure from the position that the leadership has assumed since the early 1990s, that a Palestinian state will only emerge upon termination of the Israeli occupation, and may have significant strategic implications for permanent status negotiations," the paper said.
The PLO negotiating department decided that if the ICC recognized a Palestinian state and agreed to hear the suit, this would be a diplomatic victory that would deter Israel from launching another military operation in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it said, Israel could see this as a unilateral move and cancel or suspend the Oslo Accords.
Another document, distributed on October 14, 2009, dealt with the implications of Fayyad's plan to set up a Palestinian state within two years, announced two months earlier.
"Formal international recognition of Palestinian statehood, if granted at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances, could actually harm rather than help Palestinian independence efforts," the paper warned. It said the negotiating department opposed such a move, arguing that the main risk was of narrowing conflict resolution to border issues and weakening efforts to resolve other core issues.
A third paper was sent on November 19, 2009, once again warning against a unilateral move at the United Nations. It listed a number of advantages, including enlisting more parties abroad to try to help resolve the conflict. But it warned that such a move also meant that world powers would make a historic decision with little input from the Palestinians themselves.