After Gaza, focus turns to Palestinian bid at UN

'Post' learns that Washington urging Israel not to build in E-1 area between J'lem, Ma'aleh Adumim in response to PA statehood bid.

By
November 23, 2012 04:16
4 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UNGA

PA President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UNGA _311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Washington is urging Israel not to allow construction in the area known as E-1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a possible response to the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition next week at the UN, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Building in E-1, which would create contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but which US opposition has prevented.

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Building there is one of a number of measures Jerusalem has discussed as a possible retaliation for a Palestinian statehood bid.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA spokespeople have made clear in recent days that they intend to bring a resolution to the UN General Assembly, possibly as early as Thursday, November 29, which is the anniversary of the 1947 UN partition vote.

Diplomatic officials said the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip would likely serve as an even greater impetus for Abbas to bring the measure to the UN, in an attempt to make himself – and the PA – relevant after being sidelined throughout the eight-day crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has come out publicly against the move, as have a number of key EU countries, such as Britain, Germany and France.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament on Thursday: “While there is any chance of achieving a return to talks in the coming months, we continue to advise President Abbas against attempts to win Palestinian observer state status. We judge that this would make it harder to secure a return to negotiations, and could have very serious consequences for the Palestinian Authority.”



The Post has also learned that European diplomats are holding separate discussions with Israel and the PA about the wording of the resolution that will be brought to the UN, and the possibility that it will be modified a bit to mollify Israel and temper Jerusalem’s response.

One of Israel’s chief concerns regarding the step is that as a result of being given statehood status by the UN General Assembly, the Palestinians will be able to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, something only states can do. One suggestion under review is the possibility of a side letter whereby the PA would commit not to take Israel to the ICC as long as diplomatic negotiations begin within a certain period of time.

It is not yet clear how the EU will vote on the UN measure, and whether it would reach a consensus and abstain or – as was the case when the Palestinians sought entrance into UNESCO as a state last year – some EU countries will support the measure, others will oppose it, and still others will abstain.

On Thursday, France indicated it is likely to support the PA’s statehood bid. Without specifically saying which way France would vote, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hinted at support.

“I would like to remind you of campaign pledge number 59 of...President François Hollande, which said that there would be an international recognition of a Palestinian state,” Fabius told members of the French Senate.

A French government source said the comment was intended to indicate that Paris was leaning towards voting for the Palestinian request.

During a visit by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Paris late last month, Hollande said he regretted “the temptation of the Palestinian Authority to go to the General Assembly to get what it couldn’t through negotiations.”

But Fabius, who met Abbas last weekend amid attempts to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, appeared to be signaling a change of tack.

The government of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy voted in favor of granting the Palestinians full membership of UNESCO last year.

One European official said that while it was clear Abbas had a built-in majority at the UN to get the measure passed, he wanted European support to ensure it had the legitimacy of the world’s established democracies. He said it was not clear whether the lack of EU support would prevent Abbas from moving forward with the bid.

Even during the height of the Gaza crisis, Netanyahu, during numerous talks he held with various world leaders, raised this issue. According to government sources, Netanyahu asked his interlocutors why they were not calling on Abbas to stop the rockets from Gaza.

“They would tell him to ‘get serious,’ and that Abbas has no control, to which Netanyahu would reply, ‘So what is all the talk about statehood recognition at the UN,’” one source said. The idea, he added, was to demonstrate how divorced from reality the whole UN proposal was, and how Abbas needed to be convinced not to go through with the plan.

Further, the source asked, “If the Palestinians go to the UN and get recognition, next time there is a rocket attack from Gaza, why can’t we attack Ramallah, and why can’t we take them to the ICC and accuse them of war crimes?” Reuters contributed to this report.

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