Israel Readies for Backlash if PA Sanctions Imposed

NEW YORK - Israeli diplomats are working overtime at United Nations headquarters to head off criticism of economic sanctions and other measures against the Palestinian Authority.

Diplomatic sources said the behind-the-scenes efforts over the weekend indicate Israel's awareness that sanctions, particularly the economic sort that threaten a civilian population, arouse automatic rejection in the UN even if the sanctions are aimed at rogue countries.

The sources, who wished to remain anonymous, said yesterday that in talks over the past two days, the main message of Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, was that Israeli policy on the new PA will make a clear distinction between political measures and humanitarian needs.

The sources based this on reports of the talks they had received.

According to these sources, Gillerman made two points when he met Friday with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council and with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. These points were that Israel considers the new PA a terrorist entity and that it will display determination in its war on terror.

However, Israel will try to preserve a separation between its treatment of the terrorist PA and the practical conclusions that entails and the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.

Gillerman confirmed to Haaretz yesterday that a round of talks are taking place with the ambassadors of the Security Council member states and representatives of the European Union countries.

He noted with satisfaction, "The determined and united stand by the permanent members of the Security Council and EU countries is holding firm regarding the three conditions Hamas must meet as a prerequisite for UN recognition of the new PA."

These conditions are recognizing Israel, forswearing violence and honoring previous agreements, including the road map.

Gillerman said that he reiterated in his talks the position Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni took when she met two weeks ago in New York with the five Security Council representatives. Livni had warned that displaying signs of weakness in the face of the new PA would legitimize terror.

The demand that the PA fulfill the three conditions is also anchored in a statement issued at the beginning of the month by the current president of the Security Council, American ambassador John Bolton. The council is "cognizant of the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people," the statement said, but notes that major donors have indicated that future assistance to the PA will depend on it complying with those conditions.