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Palestinians push 3-year deadline for Israel to end occupation

UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority plans to ask the Security Council to compel Israel to end its occupation within three years as part of his initiative to overcome diplomatic deadlock and move toward a two-state solution, one of his top aides said Tuesday.

The assertion by the aide, Hanan Ashrawi, was the most specific time frame given for Abbas’s demand for a deadline, which he began to float last month in the midst of fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Ashrawi also gave one of the clearest signals yet that the Palestinians would use their observer status at the United Nations, an upgrade won nearly two years ago over Israeli and US opposition, to join the International Criminal Court and seek the prosecution of Israeli behavior in the occupied territories. That prospect has caused deep concern in Israel and the United States.

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“We are intending to take Israel to the ICC,” Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told reporters at a news briefing at UN headquarters. “We do not have a time frame.”

Ashrawi, one of the most outspoken advocates of International Criminal Court membership, spoke as part of a new effort by Abbas to shift strategies in pursuit of the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, after the collapse of the US-brokered peace talks earlier this year.

Abbas and his aides spoke increasingly in recent days of wanting an internationally approved deadline for the end of Israel’s occupation to lands captured in the 1967 war. His ambassador to the UN, Riyad H. Mansour, suggested last week that Abbas may formally seek such a deadline at the General Assembly annual debate this month, attended by many world leaders.

Ashrawi asserted that peace talks with Israel had been so frustrating to the Palestinian side that a shift in strategy was needed and expected by the Palestinian population, which has grown increasingly bitter and disappointed. She said the failed US-sponsored talks, which had been pushed aggressively by Secretary of State John Kerry, had basically allowed Israel to perpetuate policies long opposed by the Palestinian side.

Palestinian anger was reinforced Sunday when the Israeli government seized nearly 1,000 acres in the West Bank near Bethlehem, an action that also drew widespread condemnation including from the United States, which said it was counterproductive to achieving a two-state solution.

Abbas has advanced his new deadline strategy amid signs that his popularity as a Palestinian leader has faltered in part because of the 50-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that dominates in Gaza and that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. The war was halted by an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire a week ago.

A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, released Tuesday, showed that the popularity of Hamas and its armed resistance approach toward Israel had greatly increased among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza because of the war.

The poll showed that Hamas would win parliamentary and presidential elections if they were held today, and that more West Bank residents support transferring the use of the Hamas method to the West Bank.

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