CONCERN GROWS OVER PALESTINIAN POSSIBLE UNILATERAL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – NETANYAHU TO MEET WITH OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE MONDAY

BY BARAK RAVID and NATASHA MOZGOVAYA
Haaretz

Concerns are growing in Israel’s government over the possibility of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence within the 1967 borders, a move which could potentially be recognized by the United Nations Security Council.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently asked the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to veto any such proposal, after reports reached Jerusalem of support for such a declaration from major European Union countries, and apparently also certain U.S. officials.

The reports indicated that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has reached a secret understanding with the Obama administration over U.S. recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Such recognition would likely transform any Israeli presence across the Green Line, even in Jerusalem, into an illegal incursion to which the Palestinians would be entitled to engage in measures of self-defense.
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In late August Fayyad presented the international community with a detailed plan for building up Palestinian Authority institutions and set a timetable of up to two years for its implementation. Senior Israeli officials said Fayyad’s plan initially met with positive reaction in Jerusalem for its emphasis on institution-building and making security services more efficient.

But some Israeli officials told Haaretz that alongside the clauses reported in the media – which are similar to elements of Netanyahu’s call for “economic peace” between Israel and the Palestinians – Fayyad’s plan also contains a classified, unreleased portion stipulating a unilateral declaration of independence.

The plan specifies that at the end of a designated period for bolstering national institutions the PA, in conjunction with the Arab League, would file a “claim of sovereignty” to the UN Security Council and General Assembly over the borders of June 4, 1967 (before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, during which Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza).

Fayyad is also seeking a new Security Council resolution to replace Resolutions 242 and 338 in the hope of winning the international community’s support for the borders of a Palestinian state and applying stronger pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

Several Israeli officials told Haaretz that Fayyad had spoken to them of positive responses he had received over the plan from prominent EU member states, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Sweden. Fayyad added that he presented the proposal to the U.S. administration and did not receive any signal of opposition in response.

Netanyahu’s “kitchen cabinet” has held a number of meetings on the matter in recent months. “It’s a very dangerous move,” said a senior Israeli foreign-policy official. “More and more cabinet ministers understand that diplomatic inaction on Israel’s part is likely to bring international support for the Fayyad program.”

Israeli sources said Netanyahu discussed the proposal in meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell and requested that the U.S. tell Fayyad that it would not support his proposal and would veto it in the Security Council. Netanyahu has yet to receive a clear response from Washington on its stance on Fayyad’s plan.

Netanyahu is to arrive in Washington today for a brief visit. He is scheduled to address the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, preceded by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Obama is slated to address the GA on Tuesday, but no meeting with his Israeli counterpart has yet been scheduled. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office tried yesterday to lower expectations over the importance of such a meeting. “It won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen,” they said.

On Tuesday Netanyahu is to fly to Paris, where he is scheduled to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday. The prime minister’s Paris visit comes just two days before that of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who will also meet with Sarkozy. Netanyahu has not signaled interest in renewing negotiations with Damascus, but stagnation in talks with the Palestinians may force him to do so.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a mediator between Israel and Syria during Ehud Olmert’s term as prime minister, said Friday in Paris that Turkey seeks to resume its role as an intermediary between the two countries, and that his government can be an “honest broker” in such talks.

Netanyahu has expressed reluctance over Turkish mediation due to ongoing diplomatic tension between Ankara and Jerusalem.

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