Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Monday that Israel will not be forced into accepting a scheduled withdrawal from the West Bank, even if the Palestinians are successful in obtaining a United Nations Security Council resolution that lays down a deadline for a pullout.
Netanyahu’s comments came as he prepared to board a plane to Rome for a meeting later in the day with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the Palestinian Security Council bid, which is expected to be submitted Wednesday.
Israel Radio’s Gal Berger tweeted that Kerry’s team canceled the photo-op with Netanyahu planned for the beginning of the meeting.
The resolution calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank within two years. Netanyahu decried the Palestinian move to cajole Israel into actions against its interest.
“In a reality in which Islamic terror is spreading its branches to every corner of the globe, we will rebuff every effort that will bring this terror into our own home, into the State of Israel, and these things I say in the clearest possible way,” Netanyahu said. “Even if they are dictated we will stand firm against them.”
Saying the Palestinian attempts were “incompatible with genuine peace,” he added that Israel would not “not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable.”
The Palestinians announced late Sunday night that they were set to present a text to the UN Security Council on Wednesday demanding an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the recognition of a Palestinian state.
“The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization member Wassel Abu Yussef told AFP Sunday after a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah.
Kerry arrived in Rome Sunday where he met for more than three hours with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seeking to head off the looming UN showdown.
The United States has already said it opposed the timetable as complicating the stalled peace negotiations.
“That’s not the way I think that we would look at handling a very complicated security negotiation by mandating a deadline of two years,” a State Department official said, asking not to be identified.
Kerry will fly to London on Tuesday to meet chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.
France stepped in last month to try to cobble together along with Britain and Germany a resolution that would win consensus at the 15-member council. The text would call for a return to negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would co-exist.
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the statehood bid ahead of Monday’s meeting in Rome.
After Netanyahu called snap elections for March, some Europeans have pointed to a narrow window of opportunity to push a Palestinian resolution at the Security Council.
In the past, the United States has consistently used its UN veto power to block moves it sees as anti-Israel, but US officials said they drew a distinction between a unilateral step and an effort to draw up a multilateral resolution at the UN Security Council, which would have the backing of many nations.
US officials said Kerry was seeking to learn more about the European position, adding there did not appear to be a European consensus on any resolution.
A number of European countries have passed motions this year calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 lines.
The recent pro-recognition wave, which was spearheaded by Sweden and the UK in October, has been welcomed by the PA, but tested relations between Israel and the EU. Jerusalem has maintained that recognition should only come once bilateral negotiations produce a two-state solution.
Similar initiatives have also been voted on in France, Spain and Ireland. The European Parliament is expected to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state on December 18.
The motions, however, are largely symbolic in nature and intended to put pressure on both sides to renew peace negotiations, which stalled in April after a nine-month, US-brokered effort.
Netanyahu on Sunday rejected all talk of withdrawing from East Jerusalem and the West Bank within two years.
Pulling out now would bring “Islamic extremists to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem,” he said.
The Palestinian leadership also decided Sunday to continue the security coordination with Israel for the time being, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported, backtracking on earlier threats to dissolve security ties in the wake of the death of a senior PA official last week.
Following the death of senior Fatah official Ziad Abu Ein last Wednesday after clashing with Israel Defense Forces soldiers, former Preventive Security Force head Jibril Rajoub said the PA had no choice but to respond, given that Israel had “crossed a red line.”
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