Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Palestinians will ask the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to declare Israeli settlements illegal and to demand a halt to their construction.
In advance of the meeting, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was in the West Bank, holding meetings with Ramallah's officials including the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Medvedev said:
Russia's position remains unchanged. Russia made its choice a long time ago....We supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
And after the meeting with Abbas, Medvedev continued:
We discussed the possible prospective of resuming the dialogue. In order to do that, we need to express maximum moderation. This in the first place relates to the freezing of settlement activity of Israel on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
Medvedev could not visit the western part of Jerusalem because of a strike in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
For Israel, the threat was that any official conformation of a Soviet decision could bring a domino effect as 109 of 192 UN member states have now recognised the state of Palestine. However, Moscow is not backing a Palestinian proposal for unilateral recognition by the UN. Instead, it is merely affirming that the Palestinians have an inalienable right to have a state with East Jerusalem as its capital, pursuing that goal through dialogue.
Medvedev is playing safely by only going far enough public to guarantee a vote on settlement. This will not only pressure Washington but, if most of the other 14 Security Council members back the proposal, will also boost Moscow's credit. Success could lead to a bigger role for Russia in mediation, including the appointment of a Russian version of President Obama's special envoy George Mitchell.