"A Palestinian state was established on Netanyahu and Lieberman's watch. It will be inscribed forever in the name of Netanyahu and Lieberman," a senior Israeli official said Wednesday, a day before the UN General Assembly is expected to vote on a Palestinian bid for recognition as a non-member observer state.
The entire political establishment agrees that the Palestinian bid, which is expected to pass, constitutes a major defeat for Israel. "(Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman boasted in the UN last year that the 'moral majority' of Western states are cooperating with Israel. Now it turns out that the Palestinians not only have an automatic majority, they also have the support of Western countries Israel could not recruit in its favor," one official said.
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On Wednesday several Western European countries announced they would support the Palestinian bid for a diplomatic upgrade at the United Nations. Even Australia, a close ally of Israel, is expected to abstain from the vote on the Palestinian bid.
Israel assumes the Western countries decided to support the bid as a means of bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid Jerusalem's harsh criticism of the Palestinian Authority. The international community fears that the weakening of the PA may lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank - a development that would surely heighten regional tensions.
Israel, and Foreign Minister Lieberman's office in particular, threatened to impose harsh sanctions on the PA with the purpose of toppling Abbas' regime and even suggested annulling the Oslo Accords. However, Israel has toned down its rhetoric over the past few days and shelved its plans to impose sanctions on the PA.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday that "pro-Palestinian resolutions pass every year. Some of them are extreme. Even in the 'moral majority' group there are countries that do not vote against these resolutions so as not to lose this majority.
'No choice.' Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)
"We were under the assumption that some of these countries would not back the Palestinian (bid), but Operation Pillar of Defense apparently changed the reality. There is a sense that the Europeans want to support Abbas after they criticized Hamas," he said.
Another top official in Jerusalem leveled harsh criticism at the government's conduct and Lieberman's harsh comments against Abbas. He claimed that the stalemate in the peace negotiations hurts Israel's ability to fight the Palestinians' UN bid.
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"Had Israel introduced an initiative or diplomatic plan, it would have been easier for us to demand that (the Western countries) oppose the Palestinian bid," said the official. "When Lieberman butts heads with Abbas, this is the result."
Meanwhile, Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) arrived in New York on Wednesday in order to attend the UN vote.
'Historical event.' MK Tibi at UN
"This is a historic event on the way to establishing an independent Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution. I have struggled for the freedom of the Palestinian people my entire life, which is why I'm here today," Tibi told reporters.
Tibi also took an active role in last year's Palestinian bid to the UN. "The Palestinian request if fully legitimate," the MK told Ynet in 2011. "It is the Palestinian people's right and the revival of the two-state vision. The prime minister and foreign minister's battle against it is a lost cause."
The Palestinians may take advantage of their upgraded status in the UN to act against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, particularly with regards to Israeli construction on Palestinian-owned lands in the West Bank. Jerusalem believes the Palestinians will not gain recognition in most international bodies and institutions due to the fact that these institutions rely on US funding. Congress passed a law obligating Washington to stop funneling money to international organizations that recognize a Palestinian state that is not established within the framework of an agreement with Israel.
An Israeli official said that Thursday's vote in the UN will usher in a "new reality. It is obvious that Israel is weaker in the international arena. It was unable to recruit even those countries that supported its positions last year – those countries that made it clear to the Palestinians that diplomatic maneuvers cannot be imposed outside the framework of direct talks and an agreement with Israel.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom criticized the international community, saying its conduct "grants legitimacy to the violation of agreements. The Oslo agreement is supposed to prevent such initiatives (Palestinian UN bid)."
Former Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir, one of the chief negotiators of the Oslo Accords, said Abbas "had no choice. There were two processes that weakened him: there was no active diplomatic process, and Hamas grew stronger in the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense.
"The UN bid won’t lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but it will strengthen him. As far as he is concerned, this keeps the two-state horizon alive," Savir added.