JERUSALEM (JTA) – Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti said worldwide protests will result from a U.S. veto of a Palestinian state at the United Nations.
Barghouti, who has been imprisoned in Israel since 2002 for murdering Israelis but still remains influential in the Arab world, told an Egyptian news service that a U.S. veto of a Palestinian state would be a "historic, deadly mistake," the French news agency AFP reported.
"Such a veto will be confronted by millions-strong protests throughout the Arab and Muslim world, indeed throughout the whole world," he reportedly said.
Barghouti is a member of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Cabinet Sunday that the Palestinian Authority "is getting ready for bloodshed on a scale we haven’t yet seen" for the day after the U.N. vote in September on officially recognizing a Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer told Israeli President Shimon Peres that the Palestinians "would be making an error" in seeking U.N. recognition without negotiations. Hoyer, the minority whip in the House of Representatives, is leading a delegation of 26 Democratic members of the U.S. Congress visiting Israel that met Wednesday with Peres.
"As you know, we have a lot of partisan differences in our Congress today, but there is real value and centrality on the policies of the United States towards Israel and there is little if any partisan difference in the Congress on the issue of Israel," Hoyer told Peres. "We believe the Palestinians would be making an error seeking U.N. recognition now before negotiations. We urge the Palestinians and the Israelis to return to the table without preconditions."
Peres noted the difficulties in the peace process but said "peace can be achieved."
"Even some of the Palestinians who are considering asking the U.N. for recognition are not sure that it is the right move," he said. "A U.N. declaration would be lacking any meaning and will only lengthen the conflict. I hope that both sides will come back to the negotiating table before September. Both us and the Palestinians understand that the alternative to peace is continued mistakes."
Peres reportedly told the delegation that there is a difference in what the Palestinians are saying publicly and what they are saying in private. The president has maintained private contacts with Palestinian leaders throughout the rugged times in the process.
The U.S. lawmakers, who arrived Monday in Israel, are scheduled to meet with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders on a trip being sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, the nonprofit educational affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.