Senior Israeli Ministers to Discuss 'Retaliatory Actions' Against Palestinians Over UN Bid

Lieberman pushes for harsh response to Abbas' bid to upgrade Palestine to non-member observer state status at United Nations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's forum of nine senior ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss the Palestinian Authority's decision to request an upgrade of its status at the United Nations. During the meeting, the country's most senior ministers will consider a range of retaliatory actions against the Palestinian leadership, an official in Jerusalem said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to request the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade Palestine's status to "non-member observer state" during November.

According to the senior official in Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry is expected to present a list of possible retaliatory actions at Tuesday's meeting. Should the Palestinians indeed appeal to the United Nations, they are expected to receive the support of at least 130 states, out of the 193 who are UN members.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been leading a campaign against Abbas for the past few months, believes Israel must respond harshly to the Palestinian move. In a meeting with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton about two weeks ago, Lieberman said that Israel would respond severely, even if it meant collapsing the Palestinian Authority.

During the forum of nine's meeting, the Foreign Ministry will present a "tool kit" of retaliatory actions that Israel could take, beginning with relatively gentle moves like confiscating VIP cards of senior Palestinian officials, or canceling working permits of Palestinian workers in Israel, to harsher moves like freezing the tax money that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, canceling the economic agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or declaring Abbas "irrelevant."

The senior official noted that it is still unclear as to whether decisions will be made during Tuesday's meeting or whether that will be postponed until the exact date of the Palestinian bid is known.

Throughout this weekend, Lieberman is expected to hold a special meeting in Vienna with Israeli ambassadors in the European Union, to discuss ways of putting the brakes on the Palestinian move. Israel is interested in causing as many of the 27 EU states as possible to vote against the upgrade of Palestine's status, or to at least abstain.

The forum of nine ministers is Israel's key ministerial body, which deals mainly with the highest-level discussions and deliberations, particularly those concerning state security.