Israel May Expand Settlement Activity if PA Seeks UN Upgrade

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has declared that Israel will respond harshly to a Palestinian bid in the UN.

Israel may initiate a building drive in West Bank settlements, as a possible sanction against the Palestinian Authority, should the PA request permanent observer-state status at the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month. A senior Israeli official stated that a list of sanctions that Israel could level on the PA in response to its bid for upgraded status was discussed at a closed meeting of nine ministers on Monday, but that no final decisions were made.

During the meeting, the ministers were informed that diplomatic efforts are still underway, aimed at pressuring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into putting off such a request from the UN. "There is still time until the UN vote, and if it's possible to prevent it, that would be best," said a minister who participated in the meeting.

Over the last few days, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has declared that Israel will respond harshly to a Palestinian bid in the UN.

According to the Foreign Ministry's assessments, should the PA win the vote in the UN General Assembly, its next step would be to use its newfound status to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court in the Hague and file a legal petition against senior Israeli officials.

Among the other possible sanctions that Foreign Ministry officials presented at the meeting were reinstating limits on travel within the West Bank, including revoking VIP permits currently held by senior PA officials, which allow them to cross Israel Defense Forces checkpoints more easily. Another proposal included economic sanctions, such as revoking permits for Palestinian workers, as well as freezing the tax funds that Israel collects monthly for the Palestinian Authority, which would prevent the PA from paying the salaries of its employees and security personnel.

The Foreign Ministry officials also proposed cancelling the Paris agreement, an economic appendix of the Oslo accords that regulates economic ties between Israel and the PA.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as well as other Defense Ministry officials who participated in the meeting claimed that an economic collapse of the Palestinian Authority would cause a breakdown of Palestinian security forces, and put an end to Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation in the West Bank, and undermine stability there.

The senior official pointed out that one of the possible responses discussed during the meeting was the approval of tenders for thousands of housing units in West Bank settlements. "If the Palestinians got to the UN, we won't continue to show the restraint that we've demonstrated, in terms of settlement construction," said the senior official.

Earlier this week, the Walla website reported that another possible response could be the incorporation into government policy of certain parts of the Levy report, which proposed easing restrictions on planning and construction in the West Bank, thereby legitimizing numerous illegal outposts.