Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas leads the meeting in Ramallah
In it, Palestinian leaders say they'll push for statehood at U.N.
They also condemn Israeli plans for settlements in a disputed area
The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership reiterated its push for recognition as an independent state by the United Nations and condemning Israel’s latest proposal for new settlements on disputed territory, state-run media reported.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas led the meeting in Ramallah on Thursday to discuss the official position, according to the official WAFA news agency.
The U.N. Security Council’s admissions committee is set Friday to review the Palestinian application for statehood.
Last week, the Middle East Quartet – made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia – called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks within a month and set the end of 2012 as the deadline for their completion. But no such direct talks have taken place.
Abbas has said repeatedly that the Palestinians would not return to negotiations until Israel halted all settlement construction and accepted 1967 border lines as a basis for the return to talks.
Israel has maintained that negotiations should begin with no preconditions.
Besides calling for negotiation, the Quartet also called on both sides to “to refrain from provocative actions” – in part a veiled reference to Israeli settlement-building in land Israel occupied as a result of the 1967 Mideast War.
This week, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced this week that a district planning committee had approved the construction of 1,100 homes in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood that was seized by Israel in 1967. That decision will be open for public comment for the next 60 days, the ministry added.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee, read a statement after the meeting Thursday criticizing the Israeli move. Palestinians, who want the land Israel now occupies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be part of a future Palestinian state.
A day earlier, Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh said the action suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are not serious about making peace.
“He said at the United Nations he was giving his hand in peace, but actually, he is digging in the land to build more settlements,” Shtayyeh said.
He further called Israel’s move “a slap in the face of the Quartet and the whole international community, which is saying ‘stop settlements.’”
In an interview with the daily Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem. “We plan in Jerusalem, we build in Jerusalem. Period. The same way Israeli governments have been doing for years.”
The Israeli move drew international criticism, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemning it while U.S. officials expressed disappointment.
“Settlement expansion is illegal under international law, corrodes trust and undermines the basic principle of land for peace,” Hague said in a statement. “We call on the government of Israel to revoke this decision.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States was disappointed by Israel’s announcement, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties.”
As for possible U.S. government criticism of the move, Netanyahu declared that the Americans “know this – they have followed this a long time. There is really nothing new.”
In the interview, Netanyahu also said Israel would not initiate another settlement freeze to get talks started again.
“We already gave at the office,” he said, referring to a 10-month freeze enacted by his government last year.