Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Israel rejects EU call for Palestinian state deadline

TWO-STATE SOLUTION The Israeli foreign minister said that setting an ‘artificial deadline’ would only undermine the prospects of reaching a bilateral agreement

AFP AND REUTERS , JERUSALEM

Palestinian workers sleep while others pray as they wait to cross a checkpoint to work in Israel at the separation barrier in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Israel yesterday rejected a EU call for the UN to recognize a Palestinian state by a certain deadline even if Israel and Palestinians fail to agree on a peace deal.

“A peace agreement can come only following direct negotiations and cannot be imposed,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told public radio.

Lieberman was commenting on a speech by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in London on Saturday in which he called for the international community to set a deadline for recognizing the state of Palestine.

“The mediator has to set the timetable,” Solana said, according to a transcript of his speech. “If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should ... be put on the table.”

“After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements,” Solana said.

“It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims,” he said.

The Israeli foreign ministry also blasted Solana’s call, which would effectively impose a solution to the decades-old Middle East conflict, saying a settlement “can only be achieved through negotiations between the parties.”

“Any approach that calls for an artificial deadline undermines the prospects of actually reaching a bilateral agreement,” it said in a statement.

Israel has come under increasing pressure from its closest ally Washington to take steps in the stalled peace process, such as freezing all settlement activity on occupied land, but the right-leaning government led by hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to do so.

US President Barack Obama’s efforts to jumpstart the peace process have raised fears in Israel that Washington would lessen its support for the Jewish state as it seeks to repair US relations with the Muslim world.

The Israelis and Palestinians revived peace negotiations at an international conference in November 2007, but the talks were put on ice after Israel launched its war on Gaza in December.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not revive the negotiations unless Israel halts settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, in accordance with a 2003 peace “road map” that also commits the Palestinians to rein in militants.

Lieberman, who heads an ultranationalist party in Netanyahu’s coalition government, questioned in the radio interview whether Abbas, who holds sway only in the West Bank, spoke for all Palestinians.

“Who exactly does Abu Mazen [Abbas] represent? At best, half the people,” Lieberman said, adding that the Gaza Strip has been under the control of Hamas Islamists since they took over the territory in 2007 after defeating fighters loyal to Abbas’s secular Fatah movement.

In remarks to his Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu repeated a call to Abbas to meet immediately.

Also See: Niches of happiness in the West Bank

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