In the final hours before the UN General Assembly is expected to upgrade the
Palestinian delegation to a non-member-state observer status, Jerusalem shifted
from trying to convince countries to oppose the move toward getting some to
abstain or issue a statement diluting the significance of their
“What is very important for us now is that as many countries as
possible that have not already bilaterally recognized a Palestinian state submit
an explanation with their vote [saying] it is a political statement confined to
the UN system, and does not constitute true recognition of an actual state in
Palestine,” one senior diplomatic official said.
The idea is to get as
many states as possible to elaborate that this is a vote for a change of the
Palestinian status within the UN system, but not outside it, he
The official said Jerusalem was in contact with numerous
countries encouraging them to add an explanation to their vote by saying that a
Palestinian state on the ground would have to come through negotiations with
The US, adamantly opposed to the step because of a fear that it
will set the diplomatic process back and make it more difficult to restart
negotiations, continued to try and get the Palestinian Authority to drop the
bid. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and US Middle East envoy David Hale
met in New York on Wednesday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a last-ditch
effort to dissuade him from the move.
Opinion in Jerusalem was split over
whether Abbas would offer to negotiate with Israel after the resolution was
While some diplomatic officials argued that this “victory” would
give Abbas the “ladder” to “come off the tree and back to the negotiating
table,” others argued that Abbas’s comments to the effect that he would
negotiate with Israel after the resolution was passed were made only to win the
votes of the Europeans.
They said that PA spokesmen had already repeated
their preconditions of a complete settlement freeze before talks can begin,
something Israel has long rejected.
Over the past few days, Israeli
diplomats have seen their hopes fade of building a block of 40-50 “quality”
nations that would either abstain or vote against the resolution. France’s
announcement on Tuesday that it was going to support the move ended hopes that
perhaps the EU would reach a consensus and abstain on the matter.
Denmark and Ireland, as well as Switzerland, which is not in the EU, announced
they would support the move.
According to assessments in Jerusalem, they
will likely be joined by Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia and
Sweden inside the EU.
The US, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic and
some South Pacific island states are expected to oppose the move.
the EU, the abstentions are likely to come from The Netherlands, Bulgaria,
Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia.
Britain has said it
will abstain unless the Palestinians commit to not taking Israelis to the
International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, and pledge to begin
negotiations immediately. The Palestinians so far have refused to make those
Other countries expected to abstain are Australia and South
Korea in the Far East; Togo, Uganda and South Sudan in Africa; and Panama and
Colombia in Latin America.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor will
address the General Assembly after Abbas presents the resolution. It is not
clear who else will speak, although the foreign ministers of Turkey, Indonesia
and Canada are expected to be in the hall. One diplomatic official said that if
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks on behalf of the resolution,
Canada’s John Baird, a staunch supporter of Israel, will speak against
One Israeli official said that the “minute the resolution passes,”
Israel “will be ready with our response.”
“We see this as a violation of
previous agreements and will respond in a way that is proportionate to the
Palestinian move,” said the official.
The vote is expected to take place
at about 11 p.m. Israel time.
In recent weeks, following appeals by the
US and other international players not to respond in an overly harsh manner that
would make a future return to negotiations even more difficult, Israel has moved
from suggestions that it immediately annul the Oslo Accords and annex the large
settlement blocs, to “tamer” measures, such as deducting money from taxes
collected on behalf of the PA to cover the estimated NIS 800 million owed to the
Israeli Electric Cooperation.
Jerusalem’s current position is that it
will wait to see what actions Abbas takes after gaining the upgraded status
before implementing drastic measures. If, for instance, he would decide to try
and take Israelis to the ICC on war crimes charges, it would be something that
could elicit a harsher Israeli reaction.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu has in recent weeks spoken to numerous colleagues asking them not to
support the measure.
Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, characterized the
move on Wednesday as “political theater that won’t change anything substantive
on the ground.”
“The Palestinians may well celebrate their victory for
one night, but when they wake up in the morning they will once again see that
nothing has changed on the ground, and that there is no substitute for direct
negotiations with Israel. That is the only real path to peaceful reconciliation
and Palestinian statehood,” he said.
According to Regev, the Palestinians
want the statehood designation as a “superior platform to continue their
conflict against Israel, and they should not be surprised when Israel refuses to