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Monday Oct. 11, 2010 4:58 PM (EST+7)
ANALYSIS-Abbas has few options as Mideast talks flounder

Read more: Peace process, Mahmoud Abbas, international opinion, Saeb Erekat

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A Palestinian threat of unilateral steps towards the creation of their own state if peace talks with Israel fail has little chance of success because it is unlikely to receive international support.

For President Mahmoud Abbas, peace talks remain the preferred path towards statehood, even as negotiations founder and doubts mount over whether they will ever bring about a state of Palestine on occupied land next to Israel.

Abbas has given Washington a month to deliver a new freeze on Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank so that peace talks can continue. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that a settlement freeze and a continuation of talks were Abbas's preferred path.

Failing that, the Palestinians would seek U.S. and U.N. support for the creation of a Palestinian state, he said.

Those ideas were wishful thinking, said Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian political commentator. The proposals that we heard are very disappointing, are indicative of complete impotence and a sign that the cupboard of options is now completely bare.

The idea of going to the Security Council last emerged almost a year ago but quickly faded from the headlines.

At the time, it drew an immediate warning from Israel that only bilateral talks could yield peace. The United States, which wields a veto in the Security Council, responded that the best way to achieve a Palestinian state was through negotiations.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking during a visit to Jericho on Monday, said he would not support Security Council action if it undermined the peace process.

Palestinian commentators say ideas floated by Abbas during an Arab League meeting are a sign of his weakness.

His strategy continues to based on a hope that U.S. pressure on Israel will bring about a peace deal acceptable to the Palestinians, producing a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Abbas is still betting on negotiations: that America will succeed, said Hany al-Masri, a Palestinian analyst.

It's good they are thinking about alternatives, but these are not the alternatives that will work, he said.

Violence is a non-starter for the 75-year-old Abbas, head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. He is a strong critic of the Intifada, or uprising, that erupted when peace talks collapsed a decade ago.

Abbas is scornful of the armed resistance of his rivals in the Hamas group which governs Gaza. Hamas, in turn, has gained political ground on Abbas and his Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) due to the peace process's failure to deliver.

Yet Abbas firmly believes that the process he helped to create remains the Palestinians' best hope for statehood.

A new round of U.S.-backed peace talks got underway on Sept. 2 in Washington but were called off by the Palestinians just a few weeks later following the expiry of an Israeli moratorium on new home building in West Bank settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far resisted pressure to renew the freeze. He heads a government dominated by parties which support the settlers, including his own Likud.

The Palestinians fear the growth of the settlements will render impossible the creation of a viable Palestinian state, killing off the peace process once and for all.

Abbas, briefing Arab officials on his options were the peace process to collapse, also raised the spectre of dissolving the PA, said an official who attended the briefing.

The PA, created as part of the peace process, depends on aid from Arab and Western states. It governs islands of territory in the West Bank, surrounded by zones of Israeli control, and employs close to 150,000 people.

The official said Abbas questioned what the role of the PA would be were the prospects of a Palestinian state to fade completely. Palestinian critics of the peace process have long called for the PA's dissolution, arguing that it relieves Israel of obligations it should perform as occupying power. But too many people, many of them Palestinian, have an interest in the its survival, Masri said. I do not believe the PA is serious about dissolving itself, he said.






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