Israel Fights to Keep Palestinians From Sabotaging Its Admittance Into OECD

PA Foreign Minister sent letter to OECD countries calling to delay the vote because 'Israel infringes on Palestinians' human rights, violates OECD values.'

Israel is waging a last-ditch diplomatic fight in an effort to keep the Palestinian Authority from undermining the country's bid for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and Benjamin Netanyahu

Despite the Palestinian campaign, the Foreign Ministry expects the OECD Council to accept Israel as a member during its meeting at 5 P.M. on Monday.

Ministry officials said that over the last few days, the Palestinians have intensified their efforts to keep Israel out of the organization.

All new members require the approval of all 31 members.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has sent a letter to all the foreign ministers of the OECD countries calling for the vote to be delayed because Israel infringes on Palestinians' human rights and therefore violates OECD values, he said.

Israel says Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayyad called many of the leaders of OECD countries over the past day to argue against Israel's acceptance. One of the Palestinian arguments is that Israel provided false financial data by not separating out the data related to the settlements.

"Fayyad's efforts to thwart Israel's participation in the organization are extremely grave, and even more so during a time when Israel wants to begin proximity talks in order to reach an agreement and a reconciliation between the nations," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who has been involved in efforts to get Israel accepted.

For its part, Israel has launched a campaign of its own to bolster support for its membership. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to several other world leaders on the phone and requested their support and assistance.

Israeli officials say acceptance would be an important stamp of approval for the country's economy, boosting its credit rating and strengthening ties with foreign investors.

Three OECD members - Switzerland, Ireland and Norway - have expressed reservations about Israel's membership. They have focused on the settlements, which Israel does not treat as a separate economic entity.

The unanimity rule means that Israel would not be allowed to join the OECD for now if any of those countries were to vote against it. That, in turn, has meant a lot of anxiety in Jerusalem, notwithstanding the reassurances. Under the pressure of potential rejection, the Foreign Ministry ordered its personnel to keep a low profile and refrain from speaking to the media.

"There is a concern that if we speak to the press, it's liable to cause damage to the election results," a ministry official said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.