Israel is preparing to counter a Palestinian bid for enhanced United Nations status later this month, the AFP news agency has reported.
“Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened Israel’s 27 ambassadors in Europe for an urgent meeting this week in Vienna,” to discuss the Palestinian bid, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP on Tuesday.
“The ambassadors will seek to define a diplomatic course with the Europeans intended to counter this initiative and to this end Lieberman will go to Vienna,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Middle East monitor, citing Israeli sources, reported that Lieberman had also asked EU officials to fix a definite time for elections in the occupied territories in order to replace Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who was described as “an obstacle to peace.”
Lieberman reportedly said that Abbas was in a “weak position” and that it was the appropriate time to explore a “creative exit from the current situation.”
The comments came as Israel’s private Channel 10 reported that Lieberman last month pledged to ensure the “collapse” of the Palestinian Authority (PA) if the bid for non-member status at the General Assembly moved forward.
With direct peace talks on hold for more than two years, the Palestinians have sought to push for their long-promised state in other ways, seeking to upgrade their status from an observer entity to that of a non-member state.
Mahmoud Abbas has said he will table the resolution later this month, on either November 15 or 29, according to officials.
Such a move is likely to be voted through easily, requiring only a simple majority in the 193-member General Assembly, where the Palestinians have widespread support.
“If the Palestinians pursue their project at the UN, they are definitively destroying the chances of peace talks “
– Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli FM
But the move is fiercely opposed by Israel, and Channel 10 reported on Monday night that Lieberman had warned during a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that Tel Aviv would respond harshly to such a bid.
“If the Palestinians go to the UN General Assembly with a new unilateral initiative, they must know they will be subject to severe measures by Israel and the United States,” the station quoted Lieberman as saying on October 24.
“If the Palestinians pursue their project at the UN, they are definitively destroying the chances of peace talks,” Lieberman reportedly added.
“If they persist with this project, I will ensure that the Palestinian Authority collapses,” the station quoted him as saying.
Lieberman’s spokesman Tzahi Moshe on Tuesday refused to comment on the report, but it prompted an angry response from senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.
She said Lieberman’s “racist” commments were a “deliberate escalation.”
“This flagrant interference in internal Palestinian affairs is a reflection of an environment of extremism and Israeli audacity,” she said in a statement.
Israeli daily Maariv on Tuesday said the government was considering measures including freezing the transfer to the Palestinian government of tax and tariff revenues collected on their behalf by Tel Aviv.
The daily said other measures being weighed included reducing the number of Israeli work permits for Palestinians.
There have been no direct Palestinian talks with Israel since 2010, when the Palestinians refused to resume negotiations unless the Israeli government suspended settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.