The Palestinians will change the rules of the game and will lose if they proceed with their bid to become an observer state at the U.N., an Israeli diplomatic source suggested on Saturday.
In response to the possibility that the Palestinian Authority will submit a request to the U.N. to upgrade its status to that of a non-member observer state, the source said, "They will change the rules of the game and they will emerge with less." Israel has been working with the U.S. and Europe to convince the Palestinians no to pursue the initiative.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said recently in closed-door discussions that he had made it clear to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior Palestinian officials that Israel could cease its cooperation with the authority, and even block the transfer of funds to it, if it went ahead with its unilateral request.
"The Palestinian initiative at the U.N. is more dangerous than rocket attacks from Gaza," Steinitz remarked.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) also touched on the matter over the weekend, calling PA President Mahmoud Abbas a member of Hamas in disguise.
"His predecessor, [Yasser] Arafat, wore a uniform and didn't disguise himself in business suits," Erdan said. "Anyone who congratulates Hamas for shooting rockets at a civilian populations, encourages incitement within the PA and acts unilaterally in the international arena is a member of Hamas in disguise."
Israeli officials said Saturday that Abbas had apparently decided to ignore requests from the U.S. State Department, as well as from German, French and British foreign ministers, not to take his bid to the U.N.
Palestinian news outlets also reported that despite considerable outside pressure, Ramallah was determined to approach the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday (Nov. 29) with the demand to upgrade its status. The Palestinian initiative is expected to garner the required majority, 150 out of 193 member states, to approve the request. If the authority's status is upgraded it will have access to U.N. international legal bodies, through which it can petition for sanctions against Israel.
Palestinian sources reported that during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Ramallah last week, she placed significant pressure on Abbas to forgo the U.N. bid, even promising him a series of gestures from the U.S. and Israel. If Abbas goes ahead with the initiative at the U.N., the Palestinians can expect substantial punitive measures to be taken against them.
However, Abbas told Clinton and other recent visitors, including the French and German foreign ministers, that he was determined to move ahead.
Israel's Gaza offensive "actually pushed Abu Mazen [Abbas] to go to the U.N.," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Erekat accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of systematically undermining the Palestinian Authority to keep his grip on the West Bank, while trying to push Gaza closer to Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza lie on opposite sides of Israel, and this has prevented virtually all travel and trade between the two territories.
"To stop this strategy, the only avenue is to go to the U.N., and place Palestine as a geographic entity, as a state," Erekat said.