By HERB KEINON AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
PA accuses Israel of practicing "political thuggery" against the United Nations; Israel considers building artificial island off Gaza to provide import-export access.
Israel’s efforts to rally countries against Palestinian Authority plans to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines are hindered by the fact that Israel has not presented any plan of its own, diplomatic officials said Tuesday.
Israel has stepped up these efforts since the Palestinian Authority’s Saeb Erekat said two weeks ago that the Palestinian leadership “decided to start implementing alternatives to negotiations, and the first of these is demanding recognition.”
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He said this decision had been taken because the PA leadership was convinced negotiations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government were impossible because of settlement activities.
Israeli diplomats abroad have expedited efforts to convince countries not to support the recognition move, warning – as Israeli diplomatic officials have been doing for months – that it could lead to counter-moves by Israel.
Among the Israeli unilateral actions reportedly discussed in various forums are annexation of large settlement blocs, and limiting the Palestinian use of Israel’s ports for imports or exports.
The PA, meanwhile, accused Israel of trying to “bully” the United Nations.
The PA leadership in the West Bank also dismissed as unacceptable Israeli threats to cut off ties with the PA if Hamas joined a Palestinian unity government.
Nimer Hammad, political adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of practicing “political thuggery” against the UN.
He said that the international community could no longer tolerate Israel’s “arrogance” and “disrespect” for international laws.
Hammad said that there was a worldwide consensus regarding the need to “end occupation and establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.”
The PA is expected to ask either the UN Security Council or General Assembly for recognition in September.
Also Tuesday, the PA rejected statements by Netanyahu regarding efforts to achieve unity between Hamas and Fatah.
Netanyahu has said in recent days that the PA can have peace either with Hamas or with Israel – but not with both – and that Israel would not have ties with a PA that included Hamas in a national unity government.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, dismissed the threat as unacceptable and accused Israel of intervening in an internal Palestinian affair. He said that Palestinian national unity was a “red line” for the PA.
Abu Rudaineh claimed that Netanyahu was searching for excuses to avoid conducting negotiations with the Palestinians.
The spokesman also brushed aside the Israeli warnings about a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN. He said that the number of countries that recognize Palestine is bigger than those who don’t, and added that all West Bank settlements would be dismantled “sooner or later,” just as they were in the Gaza Strip.
Sources in Netanyahu’s office said that the idea of unilateral Israeli moves has not been addressed by Netanyahu in recent meetings with top international officials, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry, or the foreign ministers of Norway or Sweden.
According to Israeli officials, the US is also trying to convince various countries to oppose the move, fearing that it would shatter the negotiations framework and lead to unilateral actions by both sides that would make reaching an agreement even more difficult.
But diplomatic officials said that it would be easier to lobby support if Israel had an alternative plan of where things were going.
Channel 2 reported that one plan that was being considered – and has even been discussed in the security cabinet – was the construction of a 2 km.-by-4 km. artificial island built 4.5 km. off the coast of Gaza and linked by a bridge.
According to the plan, Gaza’s exports and imports would go though this island, which would include a port and an airport. The island would be under the security control of NATO or another international body that would search the cargo going in and out of the Gaza Strip.
Israel has adamantly opposed opening a harbor or airport in Gaza because of security concerns.
According to the report, the project – spearheaded by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz – would cost between $5 billion and $10b. and take some six years to build.
Katz spoke a number of months ago about the idea with Netanyahu, who told him to develop a plan. Some 17 similar models from around the world were studied and discussed.
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