- Written by Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
- Published: 10 June 2011 10 June 2011
- Hits: 4363 4363
Classified diplomatic cables from Jerusalem to foreign embassies outline plan to mobilise against UN recognition
Israel has launched a global diplomatic campaign to persuade countries to vote against recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN general assembly in September.
Classified cables have been sent from the foreign ministry in Jerusalem to embassies around the world, instructing diplomats to draw up plans to mobilise against the Palestinian campaign for recognition, according to the newspaper Haaretz, which obtained the documents.
Diplomatic missions have been told to lobby government officials in the countries in which they serve, offer articles and interviews arguing against recognition to media outlets, enlist the help of local Jewish communities and if necessary request visits from top Israeli officials.
Israel is deeply concerned that a majority vote in favour of recognising a Palestinian state at the UN general assembly will lead to increased pressure for it to end its occupation of the West Bank and its continued, albeit eased, blockade of Gaza. It says the Palestinian campaign is an attempt to delegitimise Israel and scupper any prospect of renewed peace talks.
The Palestinians argue that, in the absence of serious negotiations with Israel for a state, the UN route is their best option for furthering their cause. However, they risk a diplomatic breach with the US, which has said it opposes the plan.
A majority of countries at the general assembly is expected to support recognition. The vote would be a significant symbolic boost for the Palestinians.
According to the Israeli foreign ministry cables, sent on 2 June by director general Rafael Barak, Israel's goal is to maximise the number of countries voting against recognition.
"The Palestinian effort must be referred to as a process that erodes the legitimacy of the state of Israel," he wrote. "The primary argument is that by pursuing this process in the UN, the Palestinians are trying to achieve their aims in a manner other than in negotiations with Israel, and this violates the principle that the only route to resolving the conflict is through bilateral negotiations."
Embassies were ordered to report back every week to a "September forum" established by the ministry. "[This] team is analysing possible Palestinian moves and the options open to Israel to foil the process, and is putting together a diplomatic, public diplomacy and media plan," Barak wrote.
Ygal Palmor, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said: "I cannot comment on leaked documents."
Israel is particularly concerned about the stance of European counties. Germany has already said it is opposed to recognition at the general assembly. The UK and France have indicated that they may support the Palestinian move if no serious return to talks is in prospect.
Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are planning separate trips to eastern European countries which recognised Palestine more than 30 years ago but whose current stance is unclear.
In a cable sent by foreign ministry official Naor Gilon, Israeli embassies in European Union countries were told: "Our goal is to create momentum against recognition of a Palestinian state by creating a significant bloc of EU states that voice their opposition as early as possible to unilateral Palestinian action."
The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority would submit a request for UN membership next month. UN membership requires the backing of the security council, which would be vetoed by the US.
Some senior Palestinian officials are now questioning the UN strategy, according to a report by the Associated Press. It quoted one unnamed official as saying: "We are trapped with September. We don't know what to do after that."
There is concern that rising expectations among Palestinians of recognition of statehood, followed by a realisation that no end to Israel's occupation is in prospect, are likely to increase frustration and anger. According to a recent poll, 70.5% of Palestinians expect a third intifada (uprising) to begin this autumn if the deadlock in negotiations is not broken.