Israeli deputy foreign minister: 50-70 countries won’t support Palestinian U.N. bid

Israel’s deputy foreign minister is predicting that “between 50 and 70” countries will not vote for a U.N. resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood.

“We believe — I believe — that we could look into a group of 50 countries which will not support [the Palestinian resolution],” Danny Ayalon said in an interview late Thursday. “It’ll be at least 50. Between 50 and 70.”

The resolution, which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will submit to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next Friday, has become the focal point of a high-stakes game of diplomatic poker.

The U.S. has vowed to veto the resolution in the Security Council, saying that a Palestinian state can only be created through negotiations with Israel.

But the Palestinians are expected to receive an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly, where they enjoy the automatic support of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement.

With no hope of actually defeating the resolution, Israel has sought to obtain a “moral majority” of primarily Western democracies that will either vote against the resolution, abstain or not participate in the vote.

“This is the group that counts,” Mr. Ayalon said. “Western democracies count because of their special weight on the international scene — not just political weight and moral weight, which is very important, but also financial weight.

“The Palestinians get most of their money, not from the Muslim and Arab countries, but from Europe and the United States, so there is a leverage here that should be used in a responsible way.”

Mr. Ayalon said Israel is targeting countries in Africa, Latin America and even the Carribean, acknowleding that the primary battleground — and the greatest prize — is the European Union.

“A lot will be dependent on the Europeans,” he said. “Many countries are waiting to see how Europe will vote.”

The 27-member European bloc has struggled to forge a unified position on the Palestinian resolution, the exact text of which has yet to be finalized.

If the bloc spinters, Israeli officials expect Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and most former Soviet bloc countries to oppose the resolution, and most of the Scandanavian countries and other historically pro-Palestinian countries like Ireland and Belgium to favor it. Britain and France are seen as bellwethers, though the French are leaning toward supporting the Palestinians.

Israeli officials believe that the final vote will resemble the 2009 vote endorsing the “Goldstone Report,” a U.N. document that accused Israel of systematic war crimes in its 2008-09 war against Hamas in the Gaza strip: 114 countries voted for that resolution, 18 voted against, 44 abstained and 16 were absent.

Mr. Ayalon said that if Western democracies announce a unified position in the coming days, “the Palestinians will think long and hard about whether to go forward because — it could be really embarrassing for them to get their resolution [passed] only on the numbers of Islamic and Non-Aligned [Movement] votes.”

“I believe it is time to tell the Palestinians that they cannot just act as spoiled brats and avoid negotiations on the one hand and try to impose on the international community an agenda which is very very negative because this unilateral approach of the Palestinians is slamming the door shut on negotiations and on the agreements [we have] with them so far, and it’s choosing conflict and confrontation over negotiations and reconciliation,” he said. “And this is why we believe responsible partners and players in the international community should not support it.”

( / 16.09.2011)

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