Palestine status: Israeli doves urge Netanyahu to back down

Nov 29, 2012

Former PM Ehud Olmert and Haaretz come out in favour of UN 'non-member status' for Palestinians

THE Palestinian Authority's bid for 'non-member observer' status at the United Nations looks certain to pass a vote in the General Assembly in New York today.

The United States will back Israel's doomed efforts to vote the measure down, and the UK says it will most likely abstain. But with democratic west European states such as France expected to vote with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israeli government is looking more isolated than ever.

Israeli opponents of PA recognition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, believe the Palestinians will use their new status to bring legal action against the Jewish state in the International Criminal Court.

But the Palestinians, led by PA president Mahmoud Abbas, say ICC action is not a priority, writes the BBC's Barbara Plett. The bid is largely symbolic anyway, but "[the PA] argues that at least it will define the territory it wants for a state, which is being eroded by aggressive Israeli settlement building, and grant it formal recognition."

Distinguished Israelis are arguing that Netanyahu should welcome the PA's promotion from its current UN 'observer' status, which will put it on a par with the Vatican.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert told The Daily Beast that the Palestinian bid is in line with the "two-state solution" - the idea, accepted by Israel and Palestine, that any final peace agreement will result in two independent states lying side-by-side.

"Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it," says Olmert. "Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations... It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and [Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad need our help. It's time to give it."

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz lends its support to the Palestinians in an editorial today, excoriating Netanyahu for failing to see the way the wind of international opinion was blowing and use it to his advantage.

"Israel, which acted vigorously and even threatened to bring down the PA if it dared implement its aspiration for recognition, has understood in recent days that its position was weak and even damaging," says the paper.

"But the prime minister, instead of taking a generous position granting early recognition to a Palestinian state and declaring that he is willing to negotiate with its president, is trying to impede the international decision and impose restrictions on it.

"If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to convince Israelis of his desire for peace, he must... be the first to congratulate Abbas for the historic achievement and provide an early date for renewing talks. It isn't just the Palestinians who deserve a diplomatic horizon. The Israelis deserve one too."

The Jerusalem Post supports Netanyahu, calling the PA's bid for UN recognition "misguided and wrongheaded". The paper accuses the PA, which rules the West Bank, of engineering the vote to score points against rival Palestinian leaders Hamas, who rule the Gaza Strip.

It is a "sad irony", the paper continues, that Palestinians "may very well achieve UN recognition of 'a unified and sovereign' Palestinian state at almost exactly the moment when internal conflicts between Hamas and the PLO [PA] make the realisation of such a state more impossible than ever".

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