- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2011

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Arab League on Thursday endorsed a Palestinian plan to seek full membership at the United Nations this fall, setting up a likely confrontation with the United States in the powerful U.N. Security Council.

Negotiations with Israel on the terms of Palestinian statehood have been frozen since 2008.

As an alternative, the Palestinians have decided to seek U.N. recognition of an independent “Palestine” in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Arab League foreign ministers, meeting Thursday in Doha, Qatar, said they would support the Palestinian bid.

The ministers pledged in a statement to “take all necessary measures and to rally needed support of all world countries, starting with members of the Security Council, to recognize the state of Palestine … and to win full membership of the United Nations.”

“Comprehensive and just peace with Israel will not be accomplished unless Israel withdraws from all occupied Arab territories,” it said.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel or the United States to the decision.

However, the United States, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, has said it would veto a Palestinian membership request. A U.S. veto would derail a quest for full U.N. recognition.

As an alternative, the Palestinians could go to the General Assembly and seek recognition there as a non-member observer state, a largely symbolic nod.

Still, widespread support in the General Assembly would signal that the majority of countries support Palestinian statehood in the pre-1967 lines.

After Thursday’s announcement, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians would appeal to both bodies, beginning with the council. “We hope the United States will not use its veto against this decision,” he said.

Speaking from Doha, Mr. Erekat said the Arab ministers decided to form two committees — one to work on procedural matters and the second to rally international support for the Palestinians.

Taking on the U.S. is potentially risky for the Palestinians, since Washington is the main Mideast mediator.

Already, there is a move in Congress to cut off funds millions of dollars in aid if an emerging Palestinian unity government includes the militant Hamas group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the West.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a full withdrawal from the occupied lands, where some 500,000 Israelis have settled since 1967, including 300,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu says Israel will never relinquish East Jerusalem, which he considers an integral part of its capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control its borders, sea and air space.

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