x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Israel threatens to ignore Oslo accords

Palestininan Authority approach to the United Nations for upgraded observer status has neighbours talking of 'grave consequences'.

JERUSALEM // Israeli diplomats have put foreign leaders on notice that their country will consider its historic peace accords with the Palestinians null and void if they ask the United Nations for a state, according to a document obtained yesterday by the Associated Press.

The list of foreign-ministry talking points also instructs diplomats to tell world leaders that Israel will retaliate against the move, without specifying details.

The Palestinians, frustrated with a four-year impasse in peace efforts, say they will ask the UN General Assembly on November 29 to give them upgraded observer status.

A draft resolution floated by the Palestinians seeks international recognition of their state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Israel and the US strongly oppose the effort, saying all matters must be resolved through negotiations. Yesterday, a US envoy was set to meet the Palestinian president in Switzerland in a last-ditch attempt to halt the bid.

The document says that UN General Assembly approval of the Palestinian request would violate 1990s agreements between the two sides and "give Israel the right to reconsider and nullify" them in whole or in part.

"Adoption of the resolution by the General Assembly will have grave consequences, and set in motion unilateral Israeli responses," the ministry communique said, cautioning that it would also complicate future diplomatic progress.

Reuters reported seeing a draft document from the office of the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in which it said Israel must confront this challenge by means that could include "toppling [the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] and dismantling the Palestinian Authority".

Mr Lieberman said in a speech at the settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank that if the Palestinian upgrade request was accepted by the UN General Assembly - as is widely predicted - it could force Israel to punish the Palestinians. "If the ... proposal is adopted at the United Nations General Assembly, as far as we are concerned this would be a complete breaking of the rules and it will elicit an extreme response from us," Mr Lieberman said yesterday.

The vice premier, Moshe Yaalon, speaking in a similar vein, told Army Radio yesterday that his country would "have to take steps to make it clear that there will be a heavy price" if the statehood petition goes ahead.

The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also warned previously that a statehood appeal by the Palestinians would push peace even farther away and lead to instability.

The Palestinian people, exasperated after 44 years of Israeli occupation, insist they have no choice but to sidestep talks that have foundered for nearly two decades amid a toxic mix of intransigence, violence and failure of will.