Facebook Twitter

Palestinians target settlements in U.N. resolution

SHARE Palestinians target settlements in U.N. resolution

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians will ask the U.N. Security Council in the coming days to condemn Israeli settlement construction, according a copy of the draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, part of a growing Palestinian campaign to rally international pressure against Israel.

The move reflects growing Palestinian discontent with stalled U.S. efforts to broker a peace agreement by next September.

American officials reacted coolly to the proposal, raising the likelihood that the U.S. would use its veto power in the council to defeat the resolution.

Israel angrily rejected the proposal.

American-mediated talks have been stalemated for more than three months, in large part because of disagreements over Israeli housing construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured lands claimed by the Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that early next month, the Palestinians' Arab allies would present the resolution to the council. The 15-member council has condemned settlement construction several times in the past.

According to the draft text, dated Dec. 21, the Palestinians will ask the council to declare that settlements are "illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace." There is no call for sanctions against Israel.

The Palestinian text calls for a complete halt to all Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and urges Israel and the Palestinians "to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, with their negotiations on the final status issues in the Middle East peace process."

It also urges an "intensification" of international diplomatic efforts to promote peace.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinian efforts do nothing to advance peace efforts.

"By choosing unilateralism over direct talks, the Palestinians are declaring that they renounce peace altogether," he said. "The Palestinians are choosing not to renew negotiations and are doing all they can to score minor points. They are trying everything except to talk."

Palestinian officials acknowledge that such moves will have little immediate impact on the ground. Instead, they say they want the world to send a tough message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who they believe is not serious about pursuing peace. Security Council decisions are considered binding under international law.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. agrees that settlement construction is "corrosive" to peace efforts, but believes an agreement can only be reached through negotiations.

"We therefore consistently oppose any attempt to take final status issues to the Council as such efforts do not move us closer to our goal of two states living side by side in peace and security," he said.

While the Palestinians say they are still committed to a negotiated peace deal, they have grown increasingly frustrated and have begun to take alternative actions to put Israel on the defensive. As part of that campaign, they have been seeking unilateral recognition of an independent Palestinian state, even in the absence of a peace deal.

President Barack Obama personally launched the latest round of peace talks at the White House on Sept. 2, vowing to broker an agreement within a year. Talks broke down just three weeks later with the expiration of a limited Israeli freeze on settlement construction.

The Palestinians say they will not resume talks until Israel stops all settlement building. Netanyahu has refused to renew the construction slowdown, and the U.S. has been unable to find a compromise to restart talks.