The Palestinian Authority agreed to a U.S. request to halt its drive to obtain further recognition from United Nations agencies, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Monday, Politico reported.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "committed the Palestinians not to pursue membership to United Nations specialized agencies, international organizations, or to sign international agreements or conventions pending the [peace] efforts being really made by [Secretary of State John] Kerry and the administration as a whole," Maliki told reporters at a briefing in Washington.
Maliki said the pledge was a temporary "goodwill" gesture, but he emphatically denied it was a promise given to Israel, according to Politico.
"We did not promise the Israelis," he said, discussing on-the-record what other Palestinians officials have generally alluded to without their names attached. "We did not have any deal with the Israelis. We were talking to the Americans. The Americans approached us [and asked us] to refrain from going to U.N. agencies while we are doing our efforts.....We said, 'Yes.'"
While Maliki did not say how long the Palestinians agreed to observe the moratorium on U.N.-related actions, he angrily threatened to end the halt and appeal directly to the International Criminal Court if Israel proceeds with construction of a road to a disputed settlement area known as "E1."
"The Israelis dare not," Maliki said, raising his voice. "If they put one single stone on the E1 plan, we will go immediately to the ICC."
Meanwhile, Israel gave tepid agreement to an Arab League endorsement of full recognition should Israel sign a peace deal with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps.
"Israel is willing to resume the peace talks with the Palestinians anytime, anywhere, with no preconditions and expects the Palestinians to refrain from introducing any preconditions as well," a senior unnamed source in Jerusalem said Tuesday, following an Arab League's announcement essentially softening the Arab position on the question of Israel's border.
The Arab League's statement, made in Washington on Monday following meetings between its members, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Kerry, indicated that the pan-Arab body would be willing to change the 2002 Saudi Initiative, which offered Israel comprehensive Arab recognition if it returned to the 1967 lines, to include mutually agreed land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
"Peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis ... is a strategic choice for the Arab states," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said on behalf of the Arab League's delegation to Washington.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment on the announcement directly on Tuesday, nor did any of the senior ministers, but an official Jerusalem source said that Israel "welcomes the boost given to the peace process by the Arab League and the U.S. secretary of state."
On Wednesday, Netanyahu said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not about territory, but rather about the existence of a Jewish state. As proof, he pointed out that Israel withdrew from all of the Gaza Strip in 2005 and in return received rocket fire. Israel Radio reported that in a meeting with a Foreign Ministry official on Wednesday, Netanyahu emphasized that the root of the conflict was the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Netanyahu reiterated that Israel has no preconditions for renewing peace talks with the Palestinians.
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said that Israel -- which has never officially endorsed or replied to the Saudi Initiative -- must explore its feasibility: "This is an important and encouraging step that could put the Arab peace plan back on the table. This statement affords Israel a way to keep the big settlement blocs in exchange for other territories that would be transferred to the Palestinians."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) welcomed the League's announcement, saying, "This is a very positive message and we need to find out exactly what it means … Israel doesn’t have to accept every single term."
Opposition Leader MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) urged Netanyahu to publicly welcome the statement saying, "This is a major step that could be a breakthrough and it has to be taken seriously."
Labor also presented Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with a 40-signature petition forcing Netanyahu to hold a special Knesset session on the Arab League's proposal. According to Israeli law, the prime minister must attend any Knesset session called at the request of one-third of its members and address their concerns.
Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On, who headed the initiative, said that the government "must not miss this great opportunity by dragging its feet."
A senior Palestinian source in Ramallah, meanwhile, downplayed Thani's statement saying, "The statement offered nothing new. All the Qatari prime minister did was announced that the Arab League has officially adopted the Palestinian position."
Another Palestinian source added that the Palestinian Authority "would not agree to revise the [Saudi] initiative."