Palestinian officials said Sunday they are preparing to ask the United Nations to endorse an independent state without Israel's consent because they are losing hope they can achieve their aspirations through peace talks.
The announcement drew a harsh rebuke from Israeli officials.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israel's Army Radio that frustrated Palestinians had decided to turn to the U.N. Security Council after 18 years of on-again, off-again negotiations with Israel.
"The purpose of such a move is to keep hope alive in the minds of the Palestinians," he said.
U.S. efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are deadlocked. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the Palestinians to negotiate with him but they refuse, saying Netanyahu must first stop building settlements on lands they claim.
Even if the U.N. endorses the Palestinian idea, it would be virtually impossible to implement while Israel remains in control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured land where the Palestinians want to build their state. The Palestinians already declared independence unilaterally on Nov. 15, 1988. The move was recognized by dozens of countries, but never implemented on the ground.
In the meantime, the Palestinian prime minister has launched a two-year development plan mean to lay the groundwork for independence.
Erekat declined to say when the Palestinians would make their appeal to the U.N. But Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said they "have no intention of rushing" to the Security Council.
"We are going to have to prepare for this well and to hold political and diplomatic talks. We want the Security Council to discuss this only after we've been given assurances," he told the Israeli daily Maariv. "There is no point in rushing just so that we collide with an American veto."
As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the U.S. wields veto power over any resolution. Israeli media predicted that the U.S., Israel's key ally, would veto the move.
Hammad said Abbas would travel to Cairo Wednesday to discuss the plan with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
There was no immediate reaction from Security Council members. But Erekat said Russia, another permanent member of the Security Council, and unspecified European nations are "on board" with the Palestinian plan.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, warned the Palestinians against taking any one-sided action.
"I think the Palestinians should know that that unilateral actions will not lead to the results they hope for," he said Sunday.