Netanyahu and Abbas - Appelbaum and Reuters - Oct 11, 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum and Reuters
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After reports reached Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority is trying to persuade about a dozen European Union member states to upgrade the PA's diplomatic status, the Foreign Ministry on Monday ordered every Israeli envoy abroad to begin "urgent" diplomatic activity. The aim is to thwart Palestinian efforts at drafting a United Nations resolution that would recognize a unilateral declaration of statehood and put international pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction.

Acting Foreign Ministry Director General Rafael Barak sent a classified cable to Israeli charges d'affairs, in which he called for an immediate public relations campaign at the bureaus of the premiers, foreign ministers and parliament in each country.

The PA is in the midst of three diplomatic activities aimed at the international community, Barak wrote in the cable: advancing a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction, securing international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and improving the diplomatic stance of Palestinian representatives in Europe, East Asia and Latin America.

Israeli officials expect Ecuador to shortly announce it is joining Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia in recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called his counterparts in Mexico and Chile in the past few days and asked them not to make a similar move. He also asked senior officials in the Obama Administration to support Israel's stance in Central and South America.

In Europe, the fear is not of unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state but rather the less drastic step of upgrading the PA's diplomatic status. Spain and France have already taken this step, and the Israeli assessment is that Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Malta, Luxembourg, Austria and perhaps other states are considering a similar move.

"The Palestinian measure stems from disappointment with U.S. policy and the lack of progress in the peace talks," Barak wrote in the cable, which was obtained by Haaretz. "The issue came to the forefront in Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton's address to the Saban forum in which she did not refer to the 1967 borders, in the U.S. House of Representative's resolution against recognizing unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, in the American announcement that negotiations had failed, and also in [U.S. envoy George] Mitchell's visit to the region, which disappointed the Palestinians," Barak wrote.

Also Monday, representatives of the PA and the UN's Arab bloc met in New York to draft a Security Council resolution denouncing construction activity in the settlements. In order to minimize the likelihood of the U.S. exercising its veto, it was decided to postpone the resolution until January, when the U.S. cedes the rotating presidency to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The U.S. has informed a number of Arab states and PA representatives that it opposes such a resolution. According to information obtained by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, senior American officials have approached Arab diplomats both in Washington, D.C. and UN headquarters in New York with the message that the measure is "unwise and unhelpful" and the administration therefore wants the Arabs to abandon it.

Israel's ambassadors abroad received on Monday a "legal position paper" in addition to the cable that they were instructed to pass on to their interlocutors, expressing that only direct negotiations could end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and not unilateral action that subvert past accords.