- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

RAMALLAH, West Bank | The Palestinians said Sunday that they plan to ask for U.N. recognition of their independence, amid mounting frustration over the stalled peace process.

Israel warned against any unilateral moves.

“We have reached a decision … to go to the U.N. Security Council to ask for recognition of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and with June 1967 borders,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Agence France-Presse.

He was referring to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and mostly Arab East Jerusalem that Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The move is largely symbolic, and the United States would likely veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood unless it was accepted by Israel.

Israeli officials warned that the move would undermine efforts to relaunch peace negotiations.

“Unilateral steps will not lead to the results we are hoping to achieve,” Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters before the weekly Cabinet meeting. “The only result should be direct negotiations.”

Hard-line Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said that if the Palestinians took unilateral steps, Israel should annex the parts of the West Bank that contain major Jewish settlement blocs.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, warned that without a peace deal, Israel would face a rise in international support for either unilateral Palestinian statehood or a binational state.

“Neither of these threats will happen tomorrow, but we shouldn’t disregard their importance,” he said.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he was intent on building institutions for a de-facto Palestinian state, which he has previously said he was aiming to complete by 2011.

“What we’re concerned with, the [Palestinian Authority] and my government, is to get ready for statehood, to prepare institutions of the state,” he told reporters in Ramallah. “That’s not the same as declaring statehood.”

“That’s the goal and when we approach it this way, we stand a very good chance of getting the support, sympathy and encouragement of the international community,” he said.

The Obama administration has so far been unable to convince Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks amid deep disagreements on the thorny issue of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

The Palestinians insist on a freeze of all settlement activity before talks restart, while Israel is offering reduce settlement expansion, saying the issue will be resolved during the negotiations.

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