11/26/2012, 00.00
PALESTINE - ISRAEL
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Palestine's UN vote, Israel's threats

by Joshua Lapide
On 29 November, the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote whether to admit or not Palestine as a non-member state. Palestinian diplomats expect a "pleasant surprise", counting on 150 votes out 193. Some doubts persist about some European nations. Israel's diplomatic counteroffensive is aimed at governments and presidents. It fears that Palestine might be admitted to the International Criminal Court to press charges against Israel over war crimes and illegal Jewish settlements. For Avigdor Lieberman, that would be a declaration of war.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - In a few days, the General Assembly of the United Nations will decide whether to accept Palestine as non-member state. Palestinian diplomats are working hard to get the right result whilst Israel is on a diplomatic offensive against what it considers a declaration of war.

The vote is set for 29 November, anniversary of the 1947 partition vote that led to the creation of Israel. An Arab Palestinian state was also called for in that UN resolution. The day is also the United Nations' International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The application to have Palestine admitted to the United Nations as non-member state follows last year's failed attempt by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to have Palestine recognised as a full member because of the threat of a US veto and the abstention of some European nations on the Security Council.

There is no veto power in the General Assembly. For this reason, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) expects a "pleasant surprise" in New York.

The Palestinians are expected to have the support of at least 150 of the 193 UN members for their bid. The US has tried to delay the procedures. It is also likely that Germany will abstain.

Palestinians are concerned that European powers and the United States will use their economic influence to convince other members to withhold their support.

According to PLO sources, representatives of seven European countries have indicated they will vote to admit Palestine as a non-member state. Five other European countries had already announced they would support the bid and France has hinted it would vote in favour.

On 22 November, the European parliament backed the Palestinian demand for non-member observer status at the United Nations, but different choices are possible.

"Anyone who doesn't vote in favour is a coward or immoral, that was our message," said a member of the Palestinian diplomatic team. "A vote against will be a clear signal to the Palestinian people that only armed struggle will bring achievements, and the diplomatic political struggle is doomed to failure from the outset".

The reference here is to the truce agreed to by Hamas and Israel following last week's clashes, seen by many as a Hamas victory and a defeat for PA President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured).

Israel's diplomatic offensive led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman underscores the fact that 'Pillar of defence' was part of this offensive.

According to Haaretz, Lieberman has issued directives to all Israeli Embassies to put pressure on local foreign ministries, prime minister's offices, national security advisers or president's offices to halt the Palestinian initiative because of its far-reaching consequences.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held three days of meetings in Vienna with the Israeli ambassadors to the European Union nations, presenting a list of possible steps to punish the Palestinians, such as stopping the transfer of tax money Israel collects for the PA, cancelling the Oslo Accords, or cancelling Israeli work permits for thousands of Palestinian workers.

Israel is particularly worried about the upgraded status, since it would enable the Palestinians to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, where they could bring cases against Israel, such as or war crimes (in Gaza) and the construction of settlements in territories forcibly occupied.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, and none of the latter's rulings could be applied to Israel. However, a series of cases against Israel or Israeli political leaders could encourage the anti-Israel boycott and a veto against Israeli products made in illegal Israeli settlements.

In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lieberman said that a Palestinian application to the ICC would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

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