Israel warns of ‘harsh’ consequences of Palestinian UN bid

15/09/2011 17:02

Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned on Wednesday there would be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians persist with their plan to seek UN membership as a state.

'What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be 'harsh and grave consequences', Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel

'What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be 'harsh and grave consequences', Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel Photo: REX

"The moment has not yet come to give details of what will happen," he said.

In the past he has called for Israel to sever all relations with the administration of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas should it press on with its UN bid.

"What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be harsh and grave consequences," Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel.

"I hope that we shall not come to those harsh and grave consequences, and that common sense will prevail in all decisions taken, in order to allow coexistence and progress with negotiations," he added.

"We're not saying what we'll do, a lot of our reaction is subject to what the final resolution will say," a foreign ministry official told AFP earlier this week on condition of anonymity.

Lieberman has accused the Palestinians of planning an "unprecedented bloodbath" after the UN move, although they say they will hold purely peaceful rallies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak earlier on Wednesday met Ashton in Jerusalem.

An EU statement said that Ashton would hold a second meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday evening.

It quoted Ashton as saying her mission was to ensure that the Palestinians' UN bid would ultimately lead to renewed negotiations with Israel.

"I met this morning with the Prime Minister and will stay longer than I planned, at their request, so that we can talk again this evening in order to try and further that objective," she said.

"I hope that in the coming days what we'll be able to achieve together will be something that enables the negotiations to start," the statement quoted her as saying.

Netanyahu's office did not immediately comment on the talks, while a short statement from the defence ministry said only that Ashton and Barak had discussed "relations with the Palestinians and the situation in the region."

The EU foreign policy chief arrived from Cairo, where she met Abbas and Arab League ministers who have been discussing Palestinian preparations to request UN membership for a state of Palestine.

Abbas is expected next week to present a membership request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who will pass it on to the 15-member Security Council for examination.

So far, 127 countries have already recognised a Palestinian state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Israeli diplomatic strategy has been to seek support from states it sees as wielding political and moral authority.

"What we were trying to look at is how we could at least get a moral majority which would involve a large number of democratic Western countries, without which (endorsement of the Palestinian request) would lose a lot of its legitimacy," the foreign ministry official said.

"It's not to say that we ignored the other countries, but we spent more time with countries that aren't part of an automatic Palestinian majority."

He said the 27-member European Union was key.

"You have countries ... that still haven't made a decision. It is no coincidence that both sides have done a lot of work in Europe."

Israeli daily Haaretz reported this week that the foreign ministry had instructed its envoys to use last weekend's attacks against the Israeli embassy in Cairo as an argument against supporting the Palestinian campaign.

"What we saw in Cairo demonstrates that despite (Abbas) and other senior Palestinians' declarations that they are not planning a violent confrontation, the violence could also come from the street," the paper quoted from what it said was an internal foreign ministry document.

The ministry would not confirm or deny the story.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington would "leave no stone unturned" in efforts to deflect the Palestinians from the UN path and get them and the Israelis back into negotiations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was sending US envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross to hold talks with Netanyahu and Abbas.

Hale is expected to meet Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday evening. Netanyahu's office declined to comment on his schedule.


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