Abbas Eyes UN Appeal for Independent State as Peace Talks Stall

With little progress in U.S. attempts to broker a new settlement freeze, the Palestinians could seek world recognition for an independent state.

Palestinian leaders will meet in the coming days to form a back-up plan in case talks with Israel fall through, a West Bank official said Sunday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will consult with leaders of his Fatah faction over the contingency program, which could involve bypassing the U.S.-sponsored peace process to seek statehood through the United Nations, the Palestinian Liberation Organization official said.

Mahmoud Abbas and Hosni Mubarak Reuters 21.11.2010

There has been widespread speculation that Abbas is considering an appeal to the UN for recognition of an independent Palestine ever since direct talks collapsed when Israel refused to renew a 10-month settlement building freeze after it expired on September 26.

Sunday's comments could now be a sign that the Palestinian leadership sees the UN track as an increasingly realistic option, as U.S. attempts to break the deadlock falter.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will in the coming days continue to cajole his cabinet colleagues toward accepting American incentives, including 20 advanced F-35 fighter planes, in return for a new 90-day freeze.

But even if he overcomes considerable resistance from within his own Likud party, as well as right-wing coalition partners Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas, it could not be enough to persuade Abbas to rejoin negotiations.

Israel has so far balked at the Palestinian and U.S. line that a new freeze, unlike the last one, must include East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1980 but Palestinians claim as their future capital.

Abbas has vowed not to return to the table unless settlement building is halted on all territory beyond the Green Line – Israel's pre-1967 border and the likely basis for a Palestinian appeal to the UN.

"If there is no complete halt to settlements in all of the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, we will not accept [a return to talks]," Abbas said in Cairo on Sunday.