Israeli official describes Palestinian U.N. bid as ‘futile’

A spokesman for Israel's prime minister said on Wednesday that the Palestinian move to achieve recognition of statehood at the United Nations is an "exercise in futility" that won't bring Israelis and Palestinians closer. Palestinians predict a historic U.N. vote recognizing their statehood this week, praising important new support from France and likely backing from other European nations seen as critical to enhancing their international standing. The United States and Israel strongly oppose the resolution, and there are fears it could torpedo Palestinian hopes of quickly resuming negotiations with Israel to end their decades-old conflict. Israeli officials have already said they will not return to negotiations after the vote and believe it instead undermines hopes for a peace deal. "The Palestinian move at the United Nations is unfortunately an exercise in futility," said Mark Regev, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman, in Jerusalem on Wednesday. "They can get pieces of paper from the U.N., but they're not going to move peace forward, they're not going to make Palestinian statehood more real." Regev said that "he only way to change reality, both for Palestinians and for Israelis, to build a better future here in the region is through peace talks." "I frankly don't understand the Palestinian leadership," he added. "They boycott Israel, they refuse to talk to us. Who do they plan to make peace with?" In Ramallah, meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi was critical of the U.S. ahead of the U.N. vote - a last-ditch attempt to rescue the troubled Middle East peace efforts. She said the U.S. "has been trying desperately to prevent us, to delay us, to threaten us and so on, and now they understand that this is going to happen and they cannot stop it, they do not have a veto right." "So it is our hope that the second term of the Obama administration will try to redeem all the shortcomings of the first one," she added. Ashrawi, a senior official with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, also said she hopes the U.S. "will grasp the opportunity quickly to show that they can rectify their position and they can undo a serious mistake that has undermined American standing and interest throughout the region." Meanwhile, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Canadian consulate in Ramallah after Canada decided not to support the Palestinian bid. The General Assembly vote to raise the Palestinian status from a U.N. observer to a non-member observer state is scheduled for Thursday - the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People." It comes just a week after a ceasefire ended eight days of punishing Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and intense rocketing of Israel by Gaza's Hamas rulers that reached Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly and the resolution is virtually certain of approval. The 193-member world body is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and the resolution only requires a majority vote for approval.

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