Security cabinet mulls response to PA UN state bid

Jerusalem still undecided whether to announce in advance what it will do and give PA clear picture of costs.

August 24, 2011 22:54
2 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations

Abbas 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

Even as the situation along the borders with Gaza and Egypt remain tense, Wednesday's weekly security cabinet focused more on how Israel should react if the UN General Assembly passes a Palestinian statehood recognition resolution than on the state of affairs in the South, government sources said Wednesday.

According to the sources, the security cabinet was briefed on the various options available to Israel if the Palestinian Authority did go ahead with its plans to take the statehood issue to the UN. One source said that there were a "number of arrows in Israel's quill," and a decision still needed to be taken regarding which "arrow" to take out and use.

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The sources said that while various options were being weighed, no final decision had yet been made as the US, EU and Quartet were still trying to find a way to renew the talks, and as Israeli diplomats abroad were actively lobbying their counterparts to convince the Palestinian to step back from the move.

Within the government there is a sense that perhaps 50-60 countries could be convinced to abstain on the PA move, still leaving the Palestinians with more than enough votes to get a resolution passed easily.

In addition to having to decide on how to respond if the PA goes ahead with its UN gambit, government sources said Israel also had to decide whether it wanted to publicly reveal what it would do before hand, thereby giving the Palestinians a clear choice.

On the one hand there are those arguing that Israel should make the choice to the Palestinians clear, so they could carefully weigh the cost and benefits of such a move. On the other hand, however, others are saying that spelling out what Israel will do would box the Palestinians into a corner, forcing them to go through with the move lest they be accused of backing down and buckling under Israeli threats.

While the UN General Assembly debate on this matter is likely around September 20, that would only be the opening of discussion on the matter. A vote would not be expected until sometime in October, giving some in Jerusalem a sense that there is still time to work with.

While the PA's move was the focus of the discussions in the security cabinet on Wednesday, the situation in the South was also discussed, with the ministers reportedly being told that during Thursday's attack the terrorists shot from Egyptian positions and wore Egyptian army uniforms. Israel, which expressed regret for the killing of three Egyptian security officers in the cross fire, is also reportedly asking the Egyptians how gunmen managed to fire from Egyptian military outposts and what Cairo was doing to prevent additional attacks from Sinai.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, also reportedly reprimanded Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom for interviewing about the attacks, despite his request that the ministers refrain from discussing the situation so as not to exacerbate the tensions with Egypt.

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