Palestinians Plan Diplomatic Steps To Put Israel Under ‘International Siege’


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy Isaac Molho will meet with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Amman Tuesday for preliminary talks aimed at setting an agenda for peace negotiations, even as the Palestinians are preparing a diplomatic campaign that aims to put Israel under "a real international siege."

Among those who have been pushing hard for the meeting Tuesday, the first official meeting between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in several months, are Jordan's King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and the Quartet's Mideast envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Senior Israeli officials said there was very little chance that the meeting would lead to the renewal of negotiations.

The diplomatic offensive the Palestinians are planning to launch later this month could include pushing the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlement construction and urging the International Criminal Court to try Israel for war crimes related to its 2008-2009 incursion into the Gaza Strip.

2012 "will be the start of an unprecedented diplomatic campaign on the part of the Palestinian leadership, and it will be a year of pressure on Israel that will put it under a real international siege," said Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry document. "The campaign will be similar to the one waged against apartheid in South Africa."

According to information that has reached Israel, the Palestinians are considering several steps as part of their campaign:

* Asking the UN Security Council in February to pass a resolution that would condemn settlement construction and impose international sanctions on Israel. If a resolution were brought to a vote, all Security Council members other than the United States would be expected to vote in favor.

* Urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to try Israel for war crimes related to Operation Cast Lead. If that fails, Palestinian officials are likely to encourage Palestinian citizens to file lawsuits against Israel in Western courts.

* Pushing for the implementation the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention that ban the construction of communities and transfer of populations in occupied territory. The Palestinians have been trying for some time now to persuade the Swiss government to convene the signatories on the document for a special debate on the subject of applying the Geneva Convention in the West Bank.

* Asking the UN General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council to send an international fact-finding committee to look into the settlement issue.

* Renewing efforts in the UN Security Council to secure full-membership status for Palestine, or asking the UN General Assembly for status as a nonmember state. A similar move was suspended last October after UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural agency, accepted Palestine as a member, in response to which Israel froze Palestinian tax revenues.

* Organizing mass rallies against Israel in the West Bank, as part of a non-violent popular uprising. In reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, said the two movements would focus their activities on a popular uprising in an effort to draw international attention to the Israeli occupation.

The diplomatic campaign is expected to begin January 26, which marks the end of the three-month period the Quartet alloted to Israel and the Palestinian Authority for resuming talks and presenting substantive proposals on borders and security arrangements.

The Palestinians agreed not to take any unilateral steps in international forums before that date.

No breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian talks is expected before then, according to an Israeli source who met recently with several senior Palestinian officials.

In an interview Saturday with Palestinian television, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that if the Quartet failed in its efforts to renew talks between Israel and the Palestinians before January 26, "all options will be open" as far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned.

Speaking about tomorrow's meeting between Molho and Erekat, senior Israeli officials said there is a deep mistrust on both sides and that the Israelis and Palestinians are each trying to convince the Quartet to hold the other side responsible for the failure to resume peace talks.

The meeting does not mark the resumption of negotiations, just a run-up to them that involves deciding on the agenda for future peace talks and the principles on which they would be based.

"We're talking about negotiations on holding negotiations," said a senior Israeli source.

Blair and Judeh will sit in on the first part of tomorrow's meeting between Molho and Erekat, as will representatives of all the parties that make up the Quartet: the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union. In the second part of the meeting, Judeh will hold discussions with Molho and Erekat.

In a statement from the Prime Minister's Bureau, Israel thanked Abdullah and Judeh "for their initiative in convening the sides in keeping with the Quartet guidelines." 

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