Israel warns of 'harsh' consequences if Palestinians go ahead with statehood bid
Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Wednesday there will be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians persist with their plan to seek UN membership as a state, Al Arabiya reported.
Speaking shortly before a scheduled meeting with E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Lieberman did not elaborate on the possible consequences.
"The moment has not yet come to give details of what will happen," he said.
In the past he has called for Israel to sever all relations with the administration of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas should it press on with its U.N. bid.
"What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be harsh and grave consequences," Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel.
"I hope that we shall not come to those harsh and grave consequences, and that common sense will prevail in all decisions taken in order to allow co-existence and progress with negotiations," he added.
Lieberman has in the past accused the Palestinians of planning an "unprecedented bloodbath" after the U.N. move, although they say they will hold purely peaceful rallies.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Wednesday met Ashton in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu's office did not immediately comment on the talks, while a short statement from the defense ministry said only that Ashton and Barak had discussed "relations with the Palestinians and the situation in the region."
The E.U. foreign policy chief arrived from Cairo, where she met Abbas and Arab League ministers who have been discussing Palestinian preparations to request U.N. membership for a state of Palestine.
Abbas is expected next week to present a membership request to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will pass it on to the 15-member Security Council for examination.
So far, 127 countries have already recognised a Palestinian state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Some hardline Israeli ministers are calling for Israel to annex chunks of the West Bank if the Palestinians go ahead.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday said the U.N. bid was a "distraction" that would not result in viable statehood, while Russia said it will back the Palestinians as the European Union remains divided.
The United States has decided to fight to the bitter end to convince the Palestinians to abandon their bid for U.N. membership, despite the rather small chance that the battle will succeed.
"We want to leave no stone unturned in our effort to get these parties back to the table," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday as two U.S. envoys headed to the Middle East for talks with Israel and the Palestinians.
David Hale, a special U.S. envoy for the Middle East, and White House aide Dennis Ross are to hold talks on Wednesday and Thursday Netanyahu and Abbas.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she was dispatching the two envoys to the Middle East stressing again the need for renewed peace talks.
Their previous trip, just last week, yielded no results.
For weeks, Washington has deployed its entire diplomatic arsenal to try to persuade the Palestinians not to submit a formal request to become the 194th member of the United Nations, in the face of U.S. and Israeli opposition.
Clinton is due to speak with Abbas before week's end.
"The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York," she said Tuesday.
"We are redoubling our efforts, not only with both sides but with a broad cross-section of the international community, to create a sustainable platform for negotiations," she said.
Direct negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year. The Palestinians have vowed to not resume talks while Israel builds in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians have two options − if they present their bid in the U.N. Security Council, they will surely face a U.S. veto.
If they go before the General Assembly, where they could ask to upgrade their representation from current observer status to non-member state, they have a very good chance of success, as Washington has one vote and no veto.