Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Palestinians have contingency plans in case peace talks with Israel broke down over Jerusalem's refusal to renew a building freeze at its West Bank settlements, DPA reported.
Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the Palestinian leader said the first option was for Israel to renew its construction freeze and get the talks going again.
If the talks did not resume, then Palestinians would try get the United States to recognize the pre-June 5, 1967 lines as the borders of the future Palestinian state.
If this in turn failed, he said, then a third option was to try get a United Nations Security Council resolution on the matter.
"We will not jump over the first option to go to the second option, or jump over the second option to go to the third ... We will exhaust every effort with the first option," he said.
"We are now focusing on the first option," he added. "But this does not mean we should not prepare ourselves for all the options."
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed at the beginning of September, but fell into limbo at the end of that month, when Israel did not renew a partial 10-month freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements.
Abbas has said there will be no further negotiations until and unless Israel renews the construction freeze.
According to Israel Radio, citing unnamed "sources," Gheit and Suleiman met with Abbas to convince him to renew the talks in exchange for a partial construction freeze that will not apply to the so-called "settlement blocs" - groups of settlements close to the Israel-West Bank border which Israel hopes to keep as part of any future peace deal.
The proposal, the radio said, is part of a US initiative whereby, in exchange for renewed talks, President Obama would pressure Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians within one year.
Abbas told the news conference that he and Gheit discussed the current situation, particularly efforts to force Israel to stop settlement construction in the West Bank, as well as the options in case the talks do not resume.
He said a return to direct negotiations with Israel required Israel to halt all settlement activities "so that we can feel assured that it (Israel) wants to reach a solution to issues such as borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees and other issues."
Abbas strongly criticized Israeli issuing of tenders for new housing units in the settlements, which he said is "unacceptable."
He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the Palestinians against taking unilateral steps, such as going to the Security Council to get recognition of the 1967 lines as the borders of the Palestinian state.
"This is something we said we will do months from now," said Abbas. "But Israel, and for decades, is taking unilateral actions and the most obvious are the settlement activities, the incursions, the checkpoints and others."
Gheit said Egypt backed the Palestinian demands for a halt to settlement activities.
"We condemn settlements and we condemn settlers' behaviour," he said. "We are against them and we support your efforts to defend Palestinian rights," he said, to Abbas.
He said he discussed with Abbas what to do if the negotiations fail, particularly how to work with the US and the Arab League on the Palestinian options.
He said Egypt had held talks with Israeli and US officials for the purpose of getting Israel to stop settlement activities "but we could not yet get the necessary breakthrough."
Gheit supported Abbas' step-by-step plan if the talks fail saying "we have no choice other than to keep all our options open," but that "we should not jump over the options to achieve our goals."
The Egyptian officials left Ramallah to Amman for talks with Jordanian officials.