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Palestinians: Israeli occupation must end in 2016

Created: 10/01/2014 12:52 PM
By: EDITH M. LEDERER

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians are asking the U.N. Security Council to set a deadline of November 2016 for an Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 including East Jerusalem in a new push to achieve independence.

The circulation of the draft resolution to council members follows Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement to the U.N. General Assembly last Friday that he would ask the council to set a deadline for a pullout and dictate the ground rules for any talks with Israel.

The draft resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, would affirm the Security Council's determination to contribute to attaining a peaceful solution that ends the Israeli occupation "without delay" and fulfills the vision of two states — "an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine" living side by side with Israel in peace and security in borders based on those before the 1967 Mideast war.

The draft calls for intensified efforts, including through negotiations, to reach a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "a just resolution" of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Its key provision calls for "the full withdrawal of Israel, the occupying power, from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, as rapidly as possible and to be fully completed within a specified timeframe, not to exceed November 2016, and the achievement of the independence and sovereignty of the state of Palestine and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people."

The Palestinians already have the status of an observer state at the United Nations. But they are likely to face an uphill struggle in the U.N.'s most powerful body where the United States, Israel's closest ally, has veto power and has used it to block many Palestinian-related resolutions.

Abbas told a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on Wednesday evening that the draft was submitted last Friday — the day he spoke — "and we hope to get an answer within a month."

"Of course we are not sure whether the Security Council will agree on it or whether we will get the right number of countries on our side. But whatever will happen, we have something to say. We put it in writing and this is clear. We don't need to repeat it again," he said.

The Palestinian president is in a bind. He has been under pressure at home to devise a new strategy to achieve Palestinian independence. The devastating war in Gaza weakened Abbas, with his Hamas rivals enjoying a surge of popularity among Palestinians.

On the other hand, Abbas has said he is under pressure from the United States not to pursue a resolution with a withdrawal deadline, and Palestinian officials say the U.S. has signaled it will veto the resolution if necessary.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, asked Tuesday about Abbas' call for a deadline, said: "We strongly believe that the only way of a negotiated solution is through negotiations between the two parties."

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said that by pursuing this draft resolution, "once again, the Palestinians are shooting in all directions, missing the real target."

"Their habit of bypassing negotiations by taking unilateral action and blaming everyone but themselves will only move the region further away from stability," Prosor said in a statement to AP. "It's time for the Palestinians to aim higher and find constructive solutions, instead of avoiding a real dialogue. Only when they start taking responsibility, we will be able to move forward."

The Palestinian quest for Security Council action follows the failure of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary of State John Kerry, and the recent 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, the vast majority civilians according to the U.N., while 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.

The draft resolution calls on the parties to consolidate the Aug. 26 cease-fire agreement that ended the Gaza conflict and refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, especially with regard to East Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as the capital of their independent state.

It calls for the opening of all border crossings in the Gaza Strip and demands an end to all Israeli military operations, settlement activities, and "collective punishment" of Palestinians. It also calls for stepped up humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians and calls on U.N. member states to contribute to the urgent reconstruction and economic recovery of the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The draft also calls for deployment of "an international presence" throughout the Palestinian territories to protect Palestinian civilians.

The Palestinians contend that Israel as an occupying power has a responsibility under the Geneva Conventions to protect civilians in time of war and have failed to do so. They have been quietly seeking support for some outside method of protecting Palestinian civilians.

The draft does not provide any details on what kind of "international presence" the Palestinians are seeking.

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Associated Press Writer Joe Federman contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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