Israel holds out little hope PA state bid will be stopped

FM officials say France pushing EU to support "Palestinian compromise" by which PA would go to UN General Assembly for non-member status.

September 12, 2011 20:08
3 minute read.
Victory signs flashed in front of Palestinian flag

palestinian flag_311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)

With the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 20 just a week away, Israeli officials spoke pessimistically on Monday of chances to fend off a Palestinian Authority move to the UN, despite a flurry of last minute diplomatic activity aimed at seeing if this were still possible.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Sunday, met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday. Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday evening from Egypt, on Wednesday.

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Following Westerwelle’s meeting with Abbas, the German Foreign Ministry put out a statement saying Westerwelle “stressed that Germany, as before, supports the aim of a viable Palestinian state as a result of negotiations. However, steps that risk to make any progress toward a two-state-solution more difficult should be avoided. With a view to a possible Palestinian request to the UN, the decisive question was what would serve the peace process, and what would hamper it.”

“The diplomatic efforts are ongoing,” one Israeli official said after Netanyahu met the German foreign minister, “though the chances are slim of getting the Palestinians to pull back and reach some sort of diplomatic solution that would make going to the UN in September unnecessary.”

Foreign Ministry officials said France was leading efforts inside Europe to get the 27-member EU to vote as one block on the Palestinian issue, and has been arguing that a PA agreement to not take the independence bid to the UN Security Council, but only to the UN General Assembly where it would ask for non-member UN status similar to the Vatican, should be seen as a “Palestinian compromise” and supported.

Western diplomatic officials said that Europe was not involved – as a way of ensuring European support – in writing the resolution with the Palestinians that will be brought to the UN, but that the Palestinians were well aware of what formulations the EU would be able to support as a bloc.

Nevertheless, one Israeli official said that Jerusalem has not gained any indication that the Palestinians will present the UN with a “watered down” resolution in order to get the Europeans on board, but rather that they were still leaning toward a maximalist resolution.

The officials said Israel had a “number of options” regarding how to respond, but would not reveal them until the time comes, in order to retain maximum maneuverability and see how things develop.

Ashton, meanwhile, said in Cairo following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr that “there is no resolution on the table yet, so there is no [EU] position. What we’re very clear about from the European Union is that the way forward is negotiations. We want to see a just and fair settlement.

We want to see the people of Palestine and the people of Israel living side by side, in peace and security.”

And even as Europeans continued to debate the issue among themselves, Russia’s envoy to the UN was quoted by Interfax as saying on Monday that Russia will vote in favor of declaring a Palestinian state at the United Nations.

“We will, of course, be voting for any of the Palestinians’ proposals,” Vitaly Churkin said, according to AFP.

“But I must say that we are not pushing them into it. We are saying that ‘whatever you decide to do, we will support you,’” he said.

Russia had previously expressed support for the Palestinian statehood bid, but had not stated explicitly that it would vote in favor of UN recognition of a Palestinian state. China came out in support of the bid last month.

Israeli officials said that while they were not surprised by the decision, Churkin’s comment that Russia would support whatever the Palestinians decided reflected both the sentiment among the Palestinian’s automatic majority in the UN, and was indicative of one of the problems Israel faced in trying to move forward with the Palestinians.

If the Palestinians get the sense that the world will support whatever they put forward, then why should they negotiate with Israel? one official asked.

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