JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister cautioned the Palestinians on Sunday against taking unilateral action in their efforts to establish an independent state, saying that only direct talks could bring peace to the region.
Benjamin Netanyahu also said he was working with the United States on ways to revive the talks, which have stalled just weeks after their launch because of disagreements over Israeli settlement construction. As the stalemate drags on, the Palestinians have said they are considering sidestepping Israel by seeking United Nations Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — territories the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu spoke out against such an approach and called on the Palestinians to “honour their obligation to engage in direct negotiations.”
“I think any attempt to circumvent it by going to international bodies isn’t realistic and won’t advance true peacemaking in any way,” Netanyahu said. “Peace will be achieved only through direct talks.”
Palestinian officials said they don’t expect President Mahmoud Abbas to take drastic action before next September, President Barack Obama’s target date for reaching an agreement. But they say Abbas has already started to prepare for other options.
While such international validation would not immediately change the situation on the ground, it could boost Palestinian leverage. International recognition of Palestine’s borders could also further isolate Israel and limit the Jewish state’s diplomatic and military options.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of acting unilaterally through settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“We don’t want to engage in unilateral action,” he said and called on Netanyahu to “stop unilateral actions and engage as a partner in peace by stopping settlement activity.”