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Parrying Palestinian statehood bid, Netanyahu invites Abbas to talk

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks during a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP)

Preparing to travel to New York to respond to a Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to meet there and begin negotiations.

“I call on the chairman of the Palestinian Authority to begin direct negotiations in New York that will continue in Jerusalem and Ramallah,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office. “I propose to President Abbas to start peace negotiations instead of wasting time on futile unilateral steps.”

The statement added that “the way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations, and not by declarations at the U.N.” In an interview with Fox News, Abbas said: “I’m ready to meet any Israeli official at any time he wants, but to meet only for meeting, I think it’s useless.”

Netanyahu’s appeal was an attempt to parry Abbas’s plan to ask the Security Council on Friday to approve the membership of a Palestinian state in the United Nations. Abbas told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday that he would press ahead with that initiative, despite a threat from Washington to veto the move.

Palestinian officials have suggested that if their initiative is blocked by the Security Council, they would ask the General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinian status to that of a non-voting observer state. There is no veto in the General Assembly, and a majority is expected to support recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinians say they decided to seek U.N. membership after repeated attempts to negotiate with the Israelis reached a deadlock.

Diplomats from the quartet of international Middle East mediators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — have been meeting in New York to cobble together a formula for a resumption of talks that would head off a showdown over the statehood bid.

The Palestinians have refused to resume talks without a freeze on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, which they say is swallowing up land they seek for a future state.


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