Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held late-night meetings Wednesday with US
envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale, and a scheduled second one of the day with EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, in an effort to head off what one
diplomatic official termed a “diplomatic train wreck” at the UN.
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focus of last-minute diplomatic fury, according to the official, was to prevent
a “one-sided anti-Israeli resolution from being adopted by the UN.”
the parties involved in the talks are being specific about what is being
discussed, and it is not even clear whether the goal is to prevent the PA from
going to the UN and asking for any type of statehood recognition, or whether the
aim is to convince the Palestinians to bring to the UN a resolution that Israel
could live with and that would form the basis for future
Ashton, who on Tuesday met in Cairo with Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, met Wednesday morning with Netanyahu, and
then separately afterward with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense
Minister Ehud Barak.
Following those meetings she said that Israel asked
her to extend her stay, and hold another meeting in the evening.
Diplomatic officials said Ashton presented a formula made up of
three parts. The first part is that the Palestinian status at the UN would be
upgraded from observer status to a nonmember UN state, similar to the status
enjoyed by the Vatican.
The second would be a new Quartet statement that
would form the basis of negotiations.
And the third element would be some
kind of UN declaration that the Palestinian statehood issue would be dealt with
in the future.
According to the officials, these elements could either be
separated and be part of other formulas currently being discussed, or be kept
together as some type of package deal.
Washington, meanwhile, is working
hard to prevent the issue from coming to the UN Security Council, not wanting to
be forced to use its veto, which US President Barack Obama has said the US would
If the last-minute efforts do not succeed, and the Palestinians do go
to the UN seeking statehood recognition, the ramifications of the move would be
“grave and difficult,” Lieberman said at a conference in the Negev on
He said that he hoped that “reason” would prevail and prevent
the “grave and difficult ramifications.”
Lieberman, reflecting Israel’s
policy of not revealing how it will respond to the Palestinian move, said this
is not the time to give details of what Israel would do or to issue
Nevertheless, he came out last month in favor of scrapping the
Oslo accords if the PA went through with the move, and ending all cooperation
with the PA.
Other ideas range from economic sanctions to annexing the
large settlement blocs. The decision how to respond is expected to be determined
both by what the Palestinians do at the UN, and the response on the ground in
the territories and along Israel’s borders.
The PA, meanwhile, remained
defiant on Wednesday in the face of mounting US and, to a different degree, EU
The PA said that it would be prepared to discuss American and
European proposals for reviving the peace process only after it submits to the
UN a request for full membership of a Palestinian state next week.
who held talks in Cairo with Muhammad Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of
the Egyptian Armed Forces, reiterated his determination to go ahead with the
statehood bid at the UN, a PA official said.
“It’s too late for us to
backtrack,” the official quoted Abbas as saying.
Abbas reportedly told
the Egyptian leader that the PA had no choice but to go to the UN because of
Israel’s “refusal” to accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for future peace
talks with the Palestinians. Abbas added that Israel’s refusal to cease
construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem was another reason why the PA
was refusing to return to the negotiating table, the official said.
also discussed the statehood plan with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, who is currently visiting Egypt. Erdogan told Abbas that his country
fully supports the statehood bid, according to the PA
Netanyahu’s inner cabinet of eight ministers met Wednesday and
reportedly discussed the recent Turkish moves over the Mavi Marmara incident and
Erdogan’s threats, but did not issue any statement after the meeting. One
diplomatic official said Israel would continue “letting Erdogan rant,” but not
respond in kind.
He said this policy was appreciated in Washington and
other western capitals, and made Israel look – in comparison to Erdogan – like
the “mature adult in this confrontation.”
On his way back to Ramallah
from Cairo, Abbas stopped in Jordan, where he met with the Quartet envoy to the
Middle East, Tony Blair, and discussed with him the statehood bid.
advised Abbas to abandon the plan and agree to the resumption of peace talks
with Israel – advice that was rejected by the PA president, a PA official
PA officials said they did not expect Ross and Hale to bring any
new proposal that would change Abbas’s mind regarding the statehood
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat complained that the US
Administration was mobilizing all its efforts to foil the statehood initiative.
He said the Americans were in daily contact with the PA leadership in an attempt
to convince the Palestinians to resume peace talks with Israel
Erekat stressed that the PA was determined to go ahead
with its plan despite US pressure and opposition from other parties.