Israel Intensifies Diplomatic Efforts ahead of Palestinian UN Bid

With the Palestinians potentially going to the United Nations to seek recognition and a UN status upgrade as soon as next week, the Israelis are very busy diplomatically both at home and abroad. Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev told The Mideast Update by phone on Thursday that Israel is “working very closely with Israel’s allies in North America and Europe to try to prevent a diplomatic problem next week at the United Nations. No one who wants to see peace in the Middle East can want to see a resolution that will severely damage the chances of ever reaching a negotiated solution.”

As part of Israel’s efforts, this week they hosted several European officials, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he will speak at the UN General Assembly meeting next week.

In comments posted on the Prime Minister’s Office website from a press conference with Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Necas, Netanyahu said of his upcoming UN speech, “Now I know that the General Assembly is not a place where Israel gets a fair hearing. I know that the automatic majorities there always rush to condemn Israel and twist truth beyond recognition. But I’ve decided to go there anyway—not to win applause, but to speak the truth to every nation that wants to hear the truth.”

The UN speech will mark the second time in three years Netanyahu has addressed the General Assembly. Regev said that despite the historical anti-Israel attitudes of many at the UN, for the Israeli leader “it’s crucial to go there and to personally put Israel’s case before the members of the international community.” Netanyahu noted he planned to discuss that “the way to achieve this peace is through direct negotiations.”

The personal diplomacy is in full gear in Israel as well. Netanyahu met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday, and then with the Czech Prime Minister on Thursday. He also met with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday. The Palestinian UN issue was discussed with all three European officials.

Regev said Israel’s message to the world is “not to agree to a one-sided, maximalist Palestinian resolution at the United Nations, that can only harm the peace process, and in so doing will not bring actually a Palestinian state into fruition any time soon. On the contrary, an extremist resolution can set back the possibility of a negotiated solution which will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Aside from Netanyahu, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is also upping his diplomatic efforts. On Thursday he was in the US for talks with American officials and is set to be in New York next week for UN meetings.

He also recently released a new video on Youtube in cooperation with the StandWithUs organization explaining Israel’s perspective on the situation with the Palestinians.

Ayalon’s office said in a statement that in the video, “The Truth About the Peace Process”, the Deputy Foreign Minister “demonstrates that the reason there is no successful peace process is because of decades of Palestinian and Arab recalcitrance, and the main reason for the conflict is not Israel’s presence in the West Bank, but successive Palestinian leaders resistance to Jewish sovereignty.”

Ayalon was quoted in the press release as saying, “It is important to demonstrate the truth by showing that the Palestinians were offered a state many times over the last several decades but rejected each offer because it would have meant recognizing Jewish sovereignty.

“Unfortunately, this leaves many to suspect that the Palestinian leadership wants a state less than it wants to see an end to the Jewish State. This is proven by a long history of Palestinian rejectionism.”

The Palestinians are also on the move diplomatically, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas having met with multiple European diplomats this week as well. The WAFA Palestinian news agency, citing Voice of Palestine radio, reported that a Palestinian official said a mass demonstration is planned in New York next Friday, September 23, coinciding with Abbas’ speech to the UN General Assembly.

The diplomatic and public relations moves come as the Israelis continue to express their opposition and concern about a maximalist Palestinian bid at the UN. “We are very concerned, we think this is a mistake,” said Regev. “We think that this will hurt the chances of achieving a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians. We think the Palestinians unfortunately appear to have adopted a strategy where they stubbornly refuse to sit down and talk peace with Israel.”

He noted that Israel had repeatedly called upon the Palestinians to resume talks, with Netanyahu offering to meet Abbas at the Palestinian Authority’s main city of Ramallah or in Jerusalem. Regev said that in such direct talks all the core issues can be put on the table: including Jerusalem, borders and security.

“The Palestinians can bring all their demands; we in Israel will bring our concerns,” said Regev. “But we have been calling for negotiations… unfortunately up until now the Palestinians have stubbornly refused to engage with Israel. And I would ask them: If they boycott Israel, if they refuse to talk with Israel, how do they expect to make peace with Israel?”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 15, 2011)