Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, sent a classified cable to the Foreign Ministry last week, stating that Israel stands no chance of rallying a substantial number of states to oppose a resolution at the UN General Assembly recognizing a Palestinian state in September.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering not participating in this year’s General Assembly. Instead President Shimon Peres is likely to represent Israel.
Under the headline “Report from the frontline at the UN,” Prosor – considered one of the most experienced and senior Israeli diplomats – offered a very pessimistic estimate as to Israel’s ability to significantly affect the results of the vote. Even though he did not state so explicitly, Prosor implies that Israel will sustain a diplomatic defeat.
“The maximum that we can hope to gain [at the UN vote] is for a group of states who will abstain or be absent during the vote,” Prosor wrote, adding that his comments are based on more than 60 meetings he held during the past few weeks with his counterparts at the UN. “Only a few countries will vote against the Palestinian initiative,” he wrote.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to contact the UN secretary general on September 20 and ask for recognition of Palestine as a full member state of the UN. At the Foreign Ministry, the assessment is that in order to avoid an American veto, the Palestinians will seek a vote at the General Assembly and not at the Security Council, even though the former is less binding. The vote at the General Assembly will probably take place in October.
Foreign Ministry sources estimate that 130-140 states will vote in favor of the Palestinians. A major question mark remains over the position of the 27 member states of the European Union.
The EU’s head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, will meet with Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem today, ahead of a meeting of the EU’s foreign ministers on September 3.
A senior source at the Foreign Ministry, which is busy trying to foil the Palestinian move at the UN, said that so far only five western countries have promised Israel they would vote against recognition of a Palestinian state – the U.S., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
“Most western countries will not be willing to be in the hall and vote against a Palestinian state,” the senior Foreign Ministry source said.
However, the stance of the four European countries may change in line with the wording of the resolution that the Palestinians will propose. If the text is moderate and includes the possibility of returning to the negotiating table immediately following the vote at the UN, these four states may alter their opposition and abstain.
At the Foreign Ministry they believe the EU’s 27 member states will be split between a large group that will support the Palestinians and two smaller groups that will abstain and oppose the resolution.
The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said over the weekend that the Palestinian Authority is close to gaining the support of 130 states which will recognize a Palestinian state. This follows the recent recognition of a Palestinian state by Honduras and El Salvador.
China also announced it will support the Palestinian resolution at the UN.
The Palestinians estimate that Guatemala and several Caribbean island-states will also announce their recognition of a Palestinian state in coming weeks. Israel is continuing its international campaign to avert support for the resolution and a number of ministers are being dispatched to Africa and Asia.
Nonetheless, it appears that Benjamin Netanyahu has given up on the effort with his decision to avoid the UN General Assembly next month. “At this time the PM does not believe that his trip to the UN will contribute to a change in the vote on the resolution for Palestinian state recognition,” one of Netanyahu’s advisers said.
President Peres is probably going to take Netanyahu’s place. Lieberman, who will also travel to the UN, recommended to the PM that Peres address the General Assembly, so that the Israeli position which will be heard at the UN will be as conciliatory and moderate as possible.
Most senior Israeli officials believe that Israel should treat the UN vote as it did the Goldstone Report – as something unavoidable which must be condemned. A smaller group of officials, which includes foreign ministry officials, Shin Bet and IDF planning officers, believe Israel should try to influence the language of the resolution, aiming at a resumption of negotiations after the vote.