Diplomats: Israel failed to prepare for Palestinian statehood bid
Diplomatic sources say diverting Palestinian initiative from diplomatic center stage would have been impossible; some commentators say repercussions of initiative could have been toned down.
NEW YORK - The neglect and negligence Israel has demonstrated in its activities at the United Nations have helped turn the unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence into an international event, said diplomatic sources in New York on Monday.
There is no doubt that it is impossible to stop the declaration that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to make in his speech on Friday to the UN General Assembly. But veteran commentators in New York are of the opinion that the international repercussions that the Palestinian initiative has created, even before being officially presented, could have been toned down.
It would have been impossible to divert the Palestinian initiative from the diplomatic center stage and kept it in perspective, said diplomatic sources who asked not to be identified.
"For almost a year, Israel has abandoned the UN forum and not responded to the vigorous activities of the Palestinians and their supporters in New York in preparing for the declaration of independence at the present General Assembly session," said a senior official at the UN.
"The Palestinians have labored for months with the aid of senior representatives from Arab delegations and have prepared the groundwork for support for the declaration of an independent state, and Israel has completely ignored their actions," he added.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, is considered an excellent professional diplomat and enjoys a special advantage, as many senior diplomats at the UN know him and remember him fondly from his tenure as director-general of the Foreign Ministry. But Prosor took up his post in New York less than three months ago. When he started his intensive round of meetings with other ambassadors as part of the Israeli attempt to block the rising tide of support for the Palestinian initiative, the Palestinians had already guaranteed the vast majority that is expected to vote in favor of a Palestinian state.
The official responses from Jerusalem to the growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause in the UN were to a large degree responses that demonstrated Israel's unpreparedness for the reality created at the UN - and in some cases reflected hysteria.
"Israel needs to and is capable of responding in a moderate and restrained fashion to the Palestinian initiative; and in that way, it can minimize in advance the enormous support the initiative created," said diplomatic sources in New York.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to travel to New York and speak in the framework of the General Assembly debate was a mistake and looked more like an act of panic than a carefully thought out move, said the sources.
"The prime minster's presence at the UN and the fact that he will be in New York while the Palestinian president presents his declaration will only strengthen the impression made by the Palestinian leader and strengthen the impression of the Palestinian move as an international event," said the sources in New York.
According to the sources, as head of the Israeli delegation at the UN, Prosor and not Netanyahu should represent Israel. A speech by an ambassador within the framework of the debate was not expected to draw the enormous media exposure that would work in this case against Israel, the sources said. "Netanyahu's rhetorical talents will not help Israel's affairs and will fall on deaf ears," they said.