PM lobbies world envoys against Palestinian statehood

Netanyahu says Palestinians haven't shown willingness for compromise on refugees, Israel as Jewish state, or that agreement would end conflict.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Menahem Kahana)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Menahem Kahana)
Israel is prepared to make concessions, but the Palestinians have shown no indication of a willingness on their own for compromise, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday to a group of 18 ambassadors to Washington from Asian, European, African and Latin American countries who don’t usually vote for Israel at the UN.
“Six prime ministers, including myself, have come out in support of a Palestinian state, and two offered far-reaching concessions, but this hasn’t helped,” Netanyahu said, in a reference to the concessions offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, and Ehud Olmert in 2008.
RELATED:'NY Times': Palestinian statehood vote is 'damaging'Erekat: PA statehood bid helps preserve peace processNetanyahu’s comments came within the context of trying to get the ambassadors to convince their governments not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the UN in September.
Among the ambassadors were the envoys to the US from Albania, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Liberia, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Slovakia, St. Lucia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda.
Netanyahu told the ambassadors – brought to Israel for a week of high-level meetings by The Israel Project – that the Palestinians have shown no willingness for compromise on the issue of refugees; Israel as a Jewish state; or that a future agreement would constitute an end to the conflict.
Netanyahu said that efforts were still underway to come up with a formula that would enable negotiations and keep the PA from turning to the UN.
He said that this formula could include elements that both sides could have reservations about, but that this should not keep them from entering talks.
Israeli officials said that Jerusalem has agreed to a formula calling for negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps, as long as the Palestinians agree that the goal of the talks will be two states. So far, the Palestinians have balked at that type of language.
One Israeli official said that among the ambassadors were a number from countries “in the automatic block that votes against Israel” at the UN.
“This is a group not known for voting for Israel, so the goal is to engage them, and any change in their voting pattern would be a plus,” the official said.
Even as Netanyahu was trying to convince these ambassadors not to support the PA at the UN, in Sydney a Jewish legislator cast doubt on an Australian newspaper report suggesting the country’s foreign minister recommended abstaining at the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood.
Michael Danby, a Labor government backbencher, said Monday that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had told him “explicitly” at a meeting in May that Australia would “vote against any unilateral announcements at the UN.”
Danby’s comments came on the heels of a report Monday in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, claiming that Rudd had written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard recommending Australia vote neither for nor against a resolution in New York next month to recognize a Palestinian state.
Rudd has campaigned for a temporary seat on the Security Council, scheduled to be voted on next year. It is understood his apparent position is an attempt to appease the Arab vote.
Canada is widely believed to have lost its bid last year to get a temporary seat on the Security Council because of its support for Israel.
Gillard, who hails from Labor’s left flank, was first thrust into the spotlight in December 2008, when as acting prime minister, she came out strongly behind Israel during Operation Cast Lead. She is believed to be supportive of voting against the unilateral statehood resolution, which has yet to be finalized.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “The government will make a decision on this matter closer to the time of any vote, in close consultation with our friends in Israel and the Arab world.
The JTA contributed to this story.