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Dec 15, 2014 12:39 AM

Palestinians seek end-of-occupation vote this week

The Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will push for a U.N. Security Council vote this week on a resolution setting a November 2016 deadline for ending the Israeli occupation, officials said Monday.

Such a move could set the stage for a clash at the Security Council, both over the resolution, which is backed by Jordan, or over a second proposal by France, which seeks a two-year deadline for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the terms of Palestinian statehood.

U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry does not consider either of the drafts acceptable. Kerry was meeting on the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday and with two top Abbas aides in London on Tuesday.

Abbas consulted with members of his Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization at a meeting on Sunday.

Participants at that meeting decided to push for a vote Wednesday on the Jordanian proposal, PLO official Wasel Abu Yousef said. However, they set another meeting for Tuesday night, suggesting that decision might change.

Another Palestinian official said the Jordanian proposal only has the support of seven members of the 15-member council, meaning it would be defeated even without triggering a U.S. veto. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss diplomacy with journalists.

The Palestinian push at the Security Council is largely symbolic. Abbas is under pressure after U.S.-led talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in the spring.

The Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. The U.N. General Assembly recognized such a state as an observer in 2012. Parliaments of several European countries have in recent weeks recommended to their governments to recognize a state.

Netanyahu said an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank could pave the way for a Hamas takeover there, as it did in Gaza after Israel's 2005 pullout.

"We will not let them do this, and I will say this to my colleagues in the diplomatic meetings I will hold in Rome," Netanyahu said.

In other developments Monday, Israel indicted three members of a Jewish extremist group for setting fire to a bilingual school in Jerusalem where Jews and Arabs study together.

The indictment accuses Yitzhak Gabai of Jerusalem and Shlomo and Nachman Twito, both of the ultra-orthodox West Bank settlement Beitar Ilit, of setting fire to the school late last month and writing racist slogans on its walls.

Prosecutors said the three are members of "Lehava," a group opposed to Jewish assimilation and co-existence between Jews and Arabs.

Separately, Israeli officials said a blaze last month at a West Bank mosque most likely resulted from an electrical problem, not arson.

The Nov. 12 fire destroyed the first floor of the mosque in the village of Mughayer, north of Ramallah and residents accused Jewish settlers of setting the blaze.

Fire Services spokesman Asaf Abras said Monday that fire investigators, working with Israeli police and the Shin Bet security service, believe the fire almost certainly was an accident. He said investigators found no combustible materials or graffiti at the site. Such items would point to settler vandalism.

But the village's mayor, Faraj al-Naasan, disputed the findings. He said residents have "strong reason" to believe it was a settler attack because they have carried out other violence in the past, including a fire at another mosque in town several years earlier.

Also Monday, Israel's Shin Bet security service said it had thwarted a potential suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv by arresting a Palestinian woman who was planning to pose as a pregnant woman with explosives hidden under her clothes.

It said the woman admitted to planning to apply for entry to Israel for medical needs. An improvised M-16 rifle, a hunting gun, ammunition and materials to be used in preparing the explosives belt were seized at the time of the arrest.


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