'Running away.' Netanyahu
Photo: Sivan Farej
'Israel strong enough.' Barak
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Netanyahu: No one to talk to on Palestinian side
Amid Palestinian threats to declare statehood unilaterally, PM says leadership in West Bank 'running away from negotiations.' Likud MK: The most they'll get is a monopoly state. Visiting senators say US will veto Palestinian declaration of statehood at Security Council

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian leadership once again on Monday, claiming it was not interested in resuming peace negotiations.


"The Palestinians are running away from negotiations. There is no one to talk to," the PM told a Likud faction meeting amid Palestinian threats to ask the UN to recognize an independent Palestinian state without Israel's consent.


Earlier Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority has asked the European Union to back such a move.


During the Likud faction meeting, Knesset Member Carmel Shama said that even if the Palestinians declare statehood, "the most they'll get is a monopoly state."


"A unilateral declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state will be meaningless," he said.


Meanwhile, American senators visiting Israel said on Monday that the United States would veto a Palestinian declaration of statehood in the United Nations Security Council.


They said the threat by Palestinian officials to take the issue to a United Nations resolution was a waste of time and would go nowhere. They urged Arab states to stop it. "It would be D.O.A. - dead on arrival," Democratic Party Senator Ted Kaufman (DE) told a news conference in Jerusalem. "It's a waste of time."


Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT), an independent, said "an essentially unilateral" declaration of statehood was the one thing that would not move the stalled peace process forward.


"I hope and presume that the United States would veto such a move if it ever came to the Security Council," Lieberman said. The only way to end the Middle East conflict was an agreement reached through bilateral negotiations, he added.


'We must not negotiate with Hamas'

The Palestinians should "give the new government of Israel an opportunity at the negotiating table", he said.


US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) said a "unilateral" declaration by the Palestinians "would take a desperate situation and make it more chaotic".


"Now is the time for the Arab leadership of this world to step forward and urge the President of the Palestinian Authority to sit down with this new government and see where it goes," Graham said.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak also addressed the Palestinian issue Monday, saying, "We are at a sensitive point in the diplomatic process. Despite the reports, the meeting (with US President Barack Obama) in Washington was constructive, and a basis for negotiations was created. We are willing to put forth the necessary effort (to resume talks.)


Speaking at a Labor faction meeting, Barak said of the Palestinian threats, "Past experience has shown that acting in agreement is better for all sides involved and is preferable to one-sided measures. The Palestinians should reconsider before (turning to the UN). A (peace) agreement would mean a Palestinian state and an end to the occupation. Israel is strong enough and has enough deterrence to make crucial decisions."


The defense minister added that Israel must continue to seek peace with Syria. "We know what's at stake and must respond to Syrian overtures," he said.


Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said, "A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be reached through negotiations, but we must not negotiate with Hamas, which represents radical Islamic views."


The Kadima chairwoman was referring to a peace plan presented by fellow party member Shaul Mofaz, who said Israel should not rule out talks with the Islamist group as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. 


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