- Associated Press - Sunday, October 24, 2010

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday cautioned the Palestinians against taking unilateral action in their efforts to establish an independent state, saying that only direct talks could bring peace to the region.

Mr. Netanyahu also said he was working with the United States on ways to revive the talks, which stalled just weeks after their launch because of disagreements over Israeli settlement construction.

As the stalemate drags on, the Palestinians have said they are considering sidestepping Israel by seeking U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — territories the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu spoke out against such an approach and called on the Palestinians to “honor their obligation to engage in direct negotiations.”

“I think any attempt to circumvent it by going to international bodies isn’t realistic and won’t advance true peacemaking in any way,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Peace will be achieved only through direct talks.”

Palestinian officials said they don’t expect President Mahmoud Abbas to take drastic action before next September, President Obama’s target date for reaching an agreement. But they said Mr. Abbas already has started to prepare for other options.

While such international validation would not change the situation on the ground immediately, it could boost Palestinian leverage. International recognition of Palestine’s borders also could further isolate Israel and limit the Jewish state’s diplomatic and military options.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of acting unilaterally through settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

“We don’t want to engage in unilateral action,” he said and called on Mr. Netanyahu to “stop unilateral actions and engage as a partner in peace by stopping settlement activity.”

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