Palestinians invite UN Security Council to visit

The Palestinians have invited the U.N. Security Council to visit the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, a move Israel says is an attempt to try to divert attention from getting back to direct negotiations to settle the decades-old conflict.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, told reporters after a council meeting on the Mideast on Tuesday that he sent a letter inviting the 15 council members "to see with their own eyes the reality of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory" including Israel's "illegal" settlement building.

Israel's United Nations Ambassador Ron Prosor, who followed Mansour to the microphone, expressed surprise at the invitation saying "this is an attempt to try and divert attention, and again try and internationalize the conflict, and not really try and stick to what is important on both sides -- and that is direct negotiations."

Mansour and Prosor spoke after U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the council that exploratory low-level talks in Amman, Jordan between the Israelis and Palestinians had stalled and prospects for resuming direct negotiations "remain dim."

"The situation on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank remains dangerous and ultimately unsustainable," he said.

Pascoe urged Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to overcome the political impasse using an outline proposed by the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia -- the so-called Quartet -- to try to reach a negotiated solution by the end of the year.

Mansour and Prosor each blamed the other side for the failure of the Amman talks, which ended in late January.

Mansour said that in five meetings in Jordan the Israelis introduced ideas that are in "complete contradiction with the global consensus" that negotiations must begin on the basis of pre-1967 war borders, with agreed land swaps, and that Israel's security would be guaranteed by third parties but not a single Israeli soldier would be left on Palestinian land.

"The Israeli side is refusing to negotiate on the basis of the global consensus," he said, expressing hope that the Security Council will try "to stop the situation from possibly exploding."

Prosor said that before inviting the Security Council to the region, the Palestinians should send president Abbas to visit Gaza, which is controlled by his Islamic militant political rivals Hamas, who refuse to recognize Israel's existence. He said Abbas hasn't visited Gaza since 2007.

Prosor accused Abbas of flying from Jordan to Qatar where instead of responding to a serious Israeli package of proposals he signed a unity deal with Hamas and gave "a horrible speech trying to deny the connection between the Jewish people and the state of Israel."

The Palestinians invited the Security Council to visit the Palestinian territories a year ago while a resolution was being debated that would have condemned "illegal" Israeli settlements and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.

The U.S., Israel's closest ally, objected to the draft and proposed a weaker presidential statement which the Palestinians rejected. The United States then vetoed the resolution in February 2011 and blocked a council visit to the Palestinian territories.

The Security Council was holding closed-door discussions Tuesday afternoon on possible trips later this year and diplomats said the Palestinian invitation was certain to be raised.