Israel is so threatened by Palestine’s attempt to upgrade its U.N. status that it is considering “toppling” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas if the Palestinian bid is approved by the U.N., according to a position paper by Israel’s foreign ministry that was obtained by the BBC.
Israel is clearly alarmed that the Palestinian measure to become an “observer” state would have a monumental effect on Israel’s position in the world. Palestine is currently considered an observer “entity,” but not an official state. To be upgraded to statehood would be a huge move because it would grant the Palestinians access to bodies like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which would give it the right to file complaints against Israel. It would be the same status accorded to the Vatican.
The move is adamantly opposed by the United States and Israel, but is still expected to pass easily when put to a vote in the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly later this month—a body composed mostly of post-colonial states historically sympathetic to the Palestinians. To further solidify their position, Palestinian diplomats are courting European countries to garner their votes.
The position paper is intended exclusively for internal discussions and has not been endorsed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, but Lieberman was quoted last week by Israeli Channel 10 TV as saying he would ensure that the Palestinian Authority “collapses” if its unilateral UN bid went ahead.
Lieberman in the past has described Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, as an “obstacle that needs to be removed.”
The position paper states that the “main goal of the State of Israel” is to deter the Palestinians from unilaterally seeking non-member observer state status at the UN, which should be seen as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response.”
“If deterrence efforts do not succeed, Israel must extract a heavy price from Abu Mazen,” it says.
The paper said a Palestinian state recognized by the UN is a “unilateral step that will crush Israeli deterrence, completely undermine its credibility and make any future peace deal that could be acceptable to Israel impossible.”
“Even though this would not be a simple step to take because Israel would have to pay the consequences, toppling Abu Mazen’s regime is the only option in such a case.”
The threat of non-member statehood is being taken so seriously that the position paper also suggests that the Palestinians should be offered immediate recognition of statehood within provisional borders as an incentive to drop their UN bid—which would be an enormous step.
The Palestinian state would be based in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters, and Area B, where Palestinians would have control over civilian issues alone.
No deadline would be set for negotiations over permanent borders and Israel would not freeze construction in the major Jewish settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, the paper says.
Recent reports have suggested that Israel might punish the Palestinians for their efforts to go around Israel in the U.N. by imposing sanctions that would halt the transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority and restricting the movement of Palestinian officials through the West Bank.
Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who is closely associated with Abbas, said he didn’t see why the Palestinians should be punished for pursuing a “peaceful and legitimate step.”
“We are going to an international organization that is a symbol for peace and security,” he said. “We disapprove of the talk about sanctions. It is shameful to talk about sanctions. This is the first step toward political independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Shtayyeh said that Palestinians were being asked to choose between bread and freedom.
“This is an insult to the UN because it is an organization that was established to defend peace and stability in the world,” he said. “It should be taken into consideration that Israel was established according to a UN resolution.”
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told the BBC: “We take Israel’s threats seriously and we do not rule out any attempt on Israel’s part to hurt the president.”