- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A bid for U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine is a last-ditch attempt to rescue troubled Mideast peace efforts, a Palestinian spokeswoman said Wednesday, rejecting Israel’s charge that it is an attempt to bypass negotiations.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, urged the U.S. to drop its opposition to the bid, dismissing Washington’s stance as “pathetic” and harmful to American interests in the region. The Palestinians have come under intense pressure from the United States, Britain and others to modify the bid but “have not succumbed,” she said.

On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but still controls most access.

The Palestinians expect some two-thirds of the General Assembly’s 193 members will accept Palestine as a nonmember observer state. The U.S., Israel, Canada and a few others are opposed.

The vote will not change the situation on the ground, yet the Palestinians still say it is significant.

Mr. Abbas has said U.N. recognition is not meant to replace negotiations with Israel but to improve Palestinian leverage and secure the pre-1967 war frontiers as the baseline for future border talks — an idea Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected.

This does not mean the U.N. vote will pave the way for a quick resumption of talks, which broke down four years ago.

Mr. Abbas has said he will not negotiate as long as Israel keeps expanding settlements on war-won land. A half-million Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, blurring the 1967 lines.

Beyond a 10-month partial halt in 2009 that failed to restart sustained peace talks, Mr. Netanyahu has refused to freeze construction in settlements.

Abbas aides have given conflicting accounts of whether U.N. recognition of “Palestine” would soften his demands for a settlement freeze ahead of any negotiations.

Referring to Israeli settlement building, Ms. Ashrawi said Wednesday that the U.N. bid “is a last-ditch effort, because we believe the two-state solution (a Palestinian state alongside Israel) is in jeopardy as a result of these actions.”

She said if the U.S. “can’t vote yes, at least don’t vote no, because that would be seen as being really pathetic by the rest of the world.”

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State William Burns met with Mr. Abbas on Wednesday at his New York hotel in a last-minute attempt to halt the U.N. bid, Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said.

Mr. Burns told Mr. Abbas that the U.N. vote goes against U.S. interests and that President Obama would make a new push in 2013 to see a Palestinian state formed through negotiations, Mr. Erekat said. Mr. Burns “asked President Abbas to change his mind,” the aide said.

Mr. Abbas told Mr. Burns that the vote would take place on Thursday, as planned, Mr. Erekat said.

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