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Moshe Yaalon
Photo: AP
Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Reuters
Ministers divided over September threat
Special eight-minister forum discordant over possible implications of Palestinian statehood bid

Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said on Monday that he does not share Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ominous predictions of unprecedented violence come September.

 

"The Palestinians' options are very limited," Yaalon said in reference to the Palestinian's planned UN bid for statehood. "In all likelihood, the only thing that will happen in September is that it will be followed by October."

 

 

In a press briefing held on Sunday, Lieberman warned that the nearing Palestinian bid will give way to "bloodshed on a scale which has yet to be seen here before." But Yaalon disagrees.

 

"The Palestinians are devoid the option of (appealing to) the UN Security Council. The most they can aspire to is the General Assembly, and even there – they have the US warning them against the move and threatening to cut their financial aid," he said.

 

The Security Council must approve any nation's request to become a full fledged member of the United Nations.

 

The Palestinian people, Yaalon hedged, "Don't expect anything dramatic to happen in September. I hear (Palestinian President) Abbas speak against violence unequivocally.

 

"Yes, he's threatening mass riots on September 20, but on the other hand, he's warning against clashing with Israeli forces. I don’t think anything special is going to happen."

 

Delicate diplomacy?

The special eight-minister forum convened on Sunday to discuss Israel's tense relations with Turkey and Ankara's demand for an Israeli apology over the 2010 raid of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara.

 

Unable to reach a decision, the forum is set to meet again over the next few days. Israel and Turkey disagree on the apology's wording, which may also affect the language of the UN's Palmer report, probing the tragic raid and its aftermath.

 

Forum members Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor believe Jerusalem should extend an official apology for the sake of its future relations with Ankara – a highly valued strategic partner; but Lieberman, Yaalon and Minister Benny Begin oppose the move.

 

Palmer report drafts released ahead of the final findings, have indicated that the UN-appointed commission is likely to rule that Israel's actions were legitimate; while finding fault in Turkey's conduct.

 

"Israel still has time to decide on an apology," Yaalon said. "Turkey's demands haven’t changed. They are seeking restitution, an apology and an end to the Gaza blockade. If we give them all of that – (Turkish PM Recep Tayyip) Erdogan will have a field day."

 

The Turkish prime minister wants nothing more than to "humiliate" Israel, which will earn him political gain amongst his Islamic constituency, Yaalon stated.

 

"Erdogan won't guarantee that once we apologize, Israel-Turkey relations will resume in full. The most he is willing to promise us, is to reinstate the Turkish ambassador. We can do without him. We'll only end up worse if we apologize," he stressed.

 

Sources in the political establishment ventured on Monday that Israel should advocate the release of the Palmer report, which is highly likely to embarrass Ankara.

 

"A UN commission has finally ruled in favor of Israel. There is no reason to shelve this report – its advantages for Israel outweigh any disadvantages," a political source said.

 

According to several sources, tensions between the two countries have not effected their robust trade relations, which have noted a 40% increase over the past year.

 

 

 

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