08/31/2011, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Israel’s increasingly bitter war against Palestinian seat in UN

by Joshua Lapide
According to Israel, the recognition of the UN seat "is a more serious threat than Hamas”. Threats and pressure: taxes paid late and threats of cuts in aid to the Palestinians and the UN; Peres banned from going to New York. The Palestinians have succeeded in gaining recognition from at least 120 countries.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Threats, warnings, slashing of funds, late payments and even the banning Shimon Peres from attending the UN: these are the means by which the State of Israel is trying to block the Palestinian Authority (PA) request for a seat in the UN as a full member or at least non-member State.

Next September 20 Palestinians will ask UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to recognize Palestine as a member of the international organization, and as a state whose borders are those of 1967. With a huge diplomatic effort that has lasted for months, the Palestinians are now able to count on the support of at least 120 countries, which recognize the 1967 borders of Palestine (ie including the occupied territories and East Jerusalem). Yesterday, recognition came from St. Vincent and Grenadine; last week Honduras and El Salvador. China also said they would vote for Palestine as an independent state.

The decision of the PA to seek UN recognition comes after the complete deadlock in peace talks, frozen because Israel continues to allow new settlements in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem and the expansion of those already existing, thus eroding the geographical space for a possible Palestinian state.

Yesterday in Haaretz published excerpts of a message (secret) from Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, to the Foreign Ministry. In it, Prosor fears that only a few nations "will vote against the Palestinian initiative."

Faced with the risk of a failure of to block international recognition of a Palestinian state Israel has stepped up the tone and seriousness of its threats.

Youval Steinitz, the Israeli Minister of Finance, said today that "this initiative of the Palestinians is a more serious threat than that of Hamas in Gaza." Hamas, the Islamist armed movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, has reconciled with Fatah months ago.

In retaliation, Steinitz has refused to anticipate the payment of monthly funds to the PA, with which it was to have paid the salaries of its employees before the festival of Eid.

After the Oslo Accords (1993), Israel, pays the PA the taxes it collects on its behalf on goods passing through Israeli ports and airports. These funds - more than 700 million euros a year - are about two-thirds of the annual budget of the PA. Even last May, after the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, Steinitz - who belongs to the Likud Party - delayed payments.

Uzi Landau, minister of infrastructure, threatened that faced with the Palestinian attempt, "... our agreements will be null and void." The minister, a member of an extremist nationalist party of Avigdor Lieberman, said that "we will impose our sovereignty over areas of the territories [occupied] ... and that is the Jordan Valley and major settlement blocs."

To avoid any support to the Palestinians, Prime Minister Netanyahu Benjiamin has already stated that he will not travel to attend the UN General Assembly. Today, Haaretz published statements by pro-Israeli diplomats in New York who advised him not to send even the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, considered "too pro-Palestinian."

The PA will present its request for a Palestinian seat next September 20. The Palestinians can submit their request directly to the Assembly. In this case, Palestine would be accepted, but as a non-member State and the vote could take place as early as October 25.
To become a full member the UN Security Council must approve the move where the United States almost certainly will use its veto.

Until now, Obama has held a contradictory attitude: on the one hand, he wants the recognition of a Palestinian state "within the 1967 borders ", on the other has already warned the PA from taking "unilateral actions" such as a UN recognition'.

On the ground in the U.S. attitude is becoming increasingly harsh. Days ago, Daniel Rubinstein, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, met Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in Jericho and threatened to cut U.S. aid funds to the PA if it persists in its plan.

As if to threaten even more serous action, U.S. Republican lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday she would propose a decree (already supported by 57 representatives) to cut UN funds to any organization that supports the PA request.

For his part, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, said that he would stop the request for a UN seat only if Israel stops building and expanding settlements, and recognizes the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations. "Without it - he said - we will continue our quest at the United Nations."

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