(Updates with Meridor comment in seventh, eighth paragraphs, Palestinian poll in 13th.)
Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinian drive to obtain full membership in the United Nations won’t succeed as Israel, the U.S. and other countries work to oppose any bid in the Security Council.
The U.S. and Israel have been pressing members of the 15- nation council to deny the Palestinians the nine votes they need for membership, an effort that is gaining traction, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on record. That would mean the U.S., which has said it won’t let the measure pass, wouldn’t have to veto it.
“I am convinced that the activities of the United States, which is acting in close cooperation with us, and the results of the activities of other governments with whom we are cooperating, as are of course the Americans, means this attempt will fail,” Netanyahu told the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, according to an e-mailed statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that later this week he will ask the council to recognize a Palestinian state. American officials also have been working to forge a compromise that would avoid a U.S. veto, which would likely alienate the Arab world.
“The U.S. clearly doesn’t want to cast this veto and would be upset if it had to do so,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya outside Tel Aviv.
Eight of the council’s members -- Russia, China, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon and India -- have indicated that they will back the Palestinian proposal. That leaves the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Portugal, Colombia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Representatives from the so-called Quartet promoting Middle East peace, comprising the U.S., UN, European Union and Russia, met late yesterday in New York in an effort to restart Israeli- Palestinian peace talks. The group’s envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said it is unlikely any agreement reached this week would head off the Palestinians’ UN bid.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said the Quartet has presented the Palestinians with a proposal that could restart talks and avoid a UN showdown.
“Let’s see if the Palestinians agree to the draft that is being offered by the Quartet,” Meridor told journalists in Jerusalem today. “Let’s use New York for negotiations.”
Barak, Fayyad Meet
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in New York late yesterday to discuss security and diplomatic issues, according to an e- mailed statement from Barak’s office.
Abbas said on Sept. 16 that the Palestinians, after getting statehood recognition, would continue to work toward a peace deal.
“A failure to vote for the Palestinians will only mean we will strengthen our international campaign” against Israeli policies, Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti said in a phone interview.
A poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip shows 83 percent support seeking full membership through the Security Council. Fifty percent of those surveyed expect the UN effort to succeed, while 43 percent predict it will fail, according to the poll released today by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
Some 35 percent favor starting an armed uprising against Israel, while 64 percent are opposed, according to the poll of 1,200 people, which had a margin of error of three percentage points.
General Assembly Vote
If the Palestinians don’t succeed in the Security Council, they can also seek a vote in the larger General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status from an “entity” to a “non-member state.” Palestinian officials have said they expect to gain an overwhelming majority of the vote if they go to the General Assembly.
The elevation to non-member state would place the Palestinians in a position similar to that of the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, enabling them to sign international treaties. That could include having cases heard in the International Criminal Court.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down a year ago after Netanyahu declined to extend a freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements, which Abbas said was a condition for the talks to continue.
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said the Palestinian drive to gain UN membership may affect the economy if it leads to unrest.
“If there is violence, that will cost us economically,” Fischer said at a press conference in Jerusalem yesterday before departing for an International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington. “We all hope that it won’t come to that.” He gave no further details.
Palestinian officials have repeatedly said their security forces will act to prevent any violence.
Israel’s economy expanded an annualized 3.5 percent in the second quarter, faster than the previous estimate of 3.3 percent, the Jerusalem-based Central Bureau of Statistics said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Exports make up about 40 percent of gross domestic product.
--With assistance from Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv, Flavia Krause-Jackson in New York, Patrick Donahue in Berlin and Nicole Gaouette in Washington. Editors: Louis Meixler, Fred Strasser, Ben Holland, Heather Langan, Digby Lidstone.
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