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Abbas Declares 'Palestinian Spring' as New Threats Emerge From Statehood Challenge

 

As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned to the West Bank Sunday to declare a "Palestinian Spring," officials closely watching the recent Palestinian push for statehood in the United Nations say the effort is fraught with peril -- not only to Israel's security but for the PA's own survival. 

"Abbas came and made a speech, presented a piece of paper. The Palestinians woke up the next morning and realized nothing has changed," Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman told Fox News.

Abbas returned to a hero's welcome in Ramallah on Sunday. He told supporters that the "Palestinian Spring is here" while also cautioning that they face a "long path" ahead. 

"There are those who would put out obstacles ... but with your presence they will fall and we will reach our end," he said.

The White House has insisted that the Palestinians seek statehood not through U.N. recognition but through direct talks with Israel

"We're going to continue to make the case that direct negotiation is the way that we can have a free and independent Palestinian state and a secure Jewish state of Israel," senior adviser David Plouffe told "Fox News Sunday."

But Abbas has refused to bow,  and is insisting on a U.N. vote on statehood. If he fails -- a certainty within the Security Council since the U.S. has veto authority -- it could create an uptick in violence in the West Bank, which may be difficult to check.

Already on Friday, one Palestinian protester was killed in the euphoria of the moment. On Sunday, protesters provoked Israeli Defense Forces by throwing stones at checkpoints.

Failure at the U.N. to fulfill pent-up Palestinian dreams could also add to the levels of conflict with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said worse than actual violence within the West Bank is the overall message behind the PA's pursuit.

"They're trying to get a state to continue the conflict with Israel rather than to end it," Netanyahu said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "They are trying to basically detour around peace negotiations by going to the U.N."

"This is a very provocative, dangerous step by the Palestinians. It will not lead to peace, it will lead to instability. And it will push us back home in a bipartisan fashion to speak out," added Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said that if the U.N. were to grant any kind of statehood to the Palestinians -- conditional or otherwise -- U.S. aid would be jeopardized. 

"It will risk U.N. support by the American Congress. If (the Palestinians) go down the road of forming a government with Hamas, Fatah and Hamas government, Hamas is a terrorist organization, that will end U.S. help to the Palestinian people," Graham, R-S.C., told "Fox News Sunday.

But Amb. Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's chief representative in the U.S., said Israel is "only trying to gain time" to try to expand settlements that will inhibit the creation of a Palestinian state and "kill the option of the two-state solution."

"The Palestinians, by going to the United Nations, are trying to change this political dynamics, this political paradigm, and send a clear message to the international community that this situation cannot be sustained," he said.

Netanyahu said Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as it pleads for its own state will not prevent the Israelis from both pursuing a peace process while at the same time doing all it can to protect itself. He said accepting a Palestinian state in the absence of a negotiated peace would be suicidal.

"I'm responsible for the faith of the one and only Jewish state. And I'm not going to head recklessly to feed more territory, you know, to the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam, as I call it. I want to first erect the wall against this -- this militancy that takes over every territory that we vacate. I want to make sure that it doesn't snap its gaping jaws, as I said, and devour us for dinner. That's peace."

Netanyahu added that despite the onslaught against Israel from hostile neighbors, he would insist on a negotiated settlement. 

"Better a bad press than a good eulogy," Netanyahu said. "You know, a lot of good people receive some bad press. But we stand, I stand for principle ... I stand for what I think is required for my nation to survive. And let the political fashions and the winds of popular opinion in the chattering class ... move aside. That's not important."

Netanyahu said he doesn't want the PA to dissolve as a result of failure to achieve statehood nor does he want the Palestinians to "be incorporated into Israel either as citizens or as subjects." But,  he insisted, that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. 

"If we have their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the security requirements, there's no reason that we won't have peace.  ... you know, President Abbas has to turn to his people and do what I did. And it's tough facing your constituency. It's tough addressing your base and say you know, it's over, I recognize the Jewish state. Israel is here to stay. It's not just a fact that it's here today and gone tomorrow. It's going to be here forever."