A Palestinian attempt to gain U.N. recognition without a peace agreement with Israel means "next to nothing" even if it succeeds, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said Friday.
Despite U.S. opposition, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to seek U.N. recognition this fall of a state of "Palestine" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have largely been frozen since 2008, and Abbas has lost hope of reaching a deal with Israel's current hardline government.
The Palestinian U.N. initiative, meant to step up international pressure on Israel to withdraw from occupied land, was endorsed Thursday by the Arab League.
Only the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. has veto power, could grant full membership to a state of Palestine. As a fallback, the Palestinians said they will seek recognition from the General Assembly as a non-member observer state, with the implied recognition of the pre-1967 borders of such a state.
John Bolton, who served as a U.N. envoy for the Bush administration, said Friday that the General Assembly is certain to support the Palestinian effort, but that such a step would be meaningless without approval in the Security Council, where it almost certainly faces a U.S. veto.
He urged Israel and the U.S. "not to take it (the Palestinian initiative) so seriously." Bolton is in Israel along with other members of the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group founded last year by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
"You don't want to invest authority and legitimacy in something that doesn't have authority and legitimacy," Bolton said. The significance of the move, "as a practical matter, is next to nothing."
The U.S. and Israel say a Mideast peace deal and Palestinian independence should come about only through talks. Both Israel and the Palestinians have launched international lobbying campaigns to drum up support for their respective positions.
In Jerusalem, more than 1,000 peace activists marched through the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to voice support for U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.
"We came here to say 'listen, there is another possibility and another option beside another round of bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians,'" said Hillel Ben-Sasson, a spokesman for the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. "Israelis and Palestinians come today here to march together and say 'no more bloodshed.'"
Also Friday, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and retaliatory airstrikes by Israel marked a new round of violence in and around the coastal territory.
Militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza have increased rocket fire at Israeli towns in recent weeks, and Israeli jets carried out a number of attacks on smuggling tunnels and Hamas facilities late Thursday and early Friday in response. Several people were lightly wounded, Gaza's Health Ministry said.