(Haaretz).Israel would agree to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status at the United Nations as long as it is not declared a state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in talks with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, over the past few days.
Netanyahu continued his talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale on Thursday, as well as Ashton and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, in an attempt to reach a compromise that would prevent an Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the UN. But no breakthrough was made, and the PA's appeal to the United Nations next week is regarded as inevitable.
Netanyahu told his interlocutors that granting the PA the status of a state would allow the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over issues like settlement construction. "But as long as it is less than a state, I'm ready to talk about it," a source familiar with the conversation quoted him as saying.
One of Netanyahu's advisers also said that Israel would not object to the PA's status being upgraded as long as it is not recognized as a state.
Both U.S. officials and Blair have been pressuring Ashton over the past few days to quash a French-Spanish initiative under which the EU's 27 members would unanimously support a General Assembly resolution upgrading the PA's status at the United Nations to that of a nonmember state. This initiative would give the PA the same status the Vatican now has.
In exchange, the PA would not ask the Security Council to grant it full UN membership or file charges against Israelis in the ICC.
Ashton, who had come to the region to gauge the parties' response to the French-Spanish initiative, did not even discuss it due to this pressure. Instead, without consulting the EU member states, Ashton raised a proposal of her own that conformed to Netanyahu's position.
Under Ashton's proposal, the PA would be upgraded to a new legal status less than that of a state. Such a status currently does not exist at the United Nations, but would be created especially for this purpose.
This status would not give the PA the standing it would need to take Israelis to the ICC.