TEL AVIV // Mahmoud Abbas yesterday made a fresh bid to press the international community to recognise a Palestinian state at the United Nations, a day after a speech by the Israeli prime minister indicated there was little hope for restarting peace talks.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, the Palestinian president offered his most detailed explanation why the Palestinians want UN recognition, suggesting such a move would enable them to seek legal action against Israel for violating international law and agreements.
Mr Abbas, writing two days after Palestinians marked Israel's 1948 creation with widespread Nakba protests, added that Palestinians "cannot wait indefinitely" for statehood.
Mr Abbas's opinion piece comes just days before Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, heads to the US to meet President Barack Obama and deliver a speech before the US Congress. Mr Obama is due tomorrow to deliver a speech on the White House's Middle East policies in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring.
On Monday, Mr Netanyahu told the Israeli parliament that he still stood by his conditions for a peace agreement, including Israel's intention to hold on to the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and to all of Jerusalem. He also made clear that no peace would be negotiated should Mr Abbas's secular Fatah movement form a joint government with Hamas, the Islamic group that rules Gaza.
But Palestinian spokesmen criticised his words, saying he failed to provide new ideas on how to reignite the peace process and showed he was unwilling to evacuate Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians want the West Bank and Gaza Strip to make up their future state, which would have its capital in East Jerusalem.
Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said there appeared to be little hope for renewing negotiations.
"The speech is typical of the Likud and Netanyahu policies," he said, referring to Mr Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party. "If he is going to Washington to repeat the same things then this is not going to be good for the American efforts to rescue the peace process."
Mr Khatib added that the Palestinians want Mr Netanyahu to accept the borders of the Palestinian state as including the whole of the West Bank, which Israel occupied along with Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Israeli commentators yesterday said Mr Netanyahu made few efforts in his speech to draw the Palestinians back to the negotiating table because he was more concerned about retaining his hold on Israel's growing right-wing camp ahead of elections next year.
Such dim prospects for peace have also spurred a more intensive lobbying effort by the Palestinians, as suggested in Mr Abbas's opinion piece.
Mr Abbas wrote that Palestinians cannot keep waiting while Israel sends more settlers to reside in the West Bank and denies Palestinians access to their land and holy places, especially in Jerusalem.
"We call on all friendly, peace-loving nations to join us in realising our national aspirations by recognising the state of Palestine on the 1967 border and by supporting its admission to the United Nations," Mr Abbas wrote.
He said an admission to the UN would pave the way for the "internationalisation of the conflict as a legal one, not only a political one." He added: "It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the UN, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."
The gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian stances have prompted some analysts to predict that little progress is expected from Mr Obama's meeting on Friday with Mr Netanyahu.
Aaron David Miller, a former US negotiator on the Arab-Israeli conflict, wrote in his own opinion piece in The New York Times yesterday that "tensions will smoulder" at the gathering.
He said that, for Mr Obama, the absence of progress on the peace process is a "source of great frustration" and that in the wake of the Arab Spring, Arabs will hold the US responsible for the impasse.
However, for Mr Netanyahu, there is little incentive to reignite talks. "Today, a real peace process means a wrecked coalition, possibly new elections and new opportunities for political rivals," Mr Miller wrote.