Oust Abbas – or recognise Palestinian state; leaked Israeli paper

November 15, 2012
Sarah Benton

For the previous leaked internal document, see If Israel wants people to think well of it, talk peace not ‘delegitimisation’

Israel ministry paper proposes ‘toppling’ Abbas over UN bid

By BBC news
November 14, 2012

A position paper by Israel’s foreign ministry proposes “toppling” President Mahmoud Abbas if Palestine’s bid for UN non-member state status is approved.

The internal document says it is “the only option” if deterrence efforts do not succeed, despite the consequences.

It also suggests that the Palestinians should be offered immediate recognition of statehood within provisional borders as an incentive to drop their UN bid.

Mr Abbas plans to submit a request to the UN General Assembly on 29 November.

Currently, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the umbrella group which represents most Palestinian factions and conducts negotiations with Israel, only has “permanent observer” status at the UN.

Mr Abbas, who is chairman of the PLO and president of the Palestinian Authority, wants Palestine to be admitted as a non-member observer state based on the boundaries which existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war.

‘Extract heavy price’

The Israeli position paper, a copy of which has been obtained by the BBC, is intended for use in internal discussions and has not been endorsed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

However, Mr Lieberman was quoted last week by Israeli Channel 10 TV as saying he would ensure that the Palestinian Authority “collapses” if its unilateral UN bid went ahead.

He has also in the past described Mr Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, as an “obstacle that needs to be removed”.

The position paper states that the “main goal of the State of Israel” is to deter the Palestinians from unilaterally seeking non-member observer state status at the UN, which should be seen as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response”.

“If deterrence efforts do not succeed, Israel must extract a heavy price from Abu Mazen,” it says.

The reality of a Palestinian state recognised by the UN is a “unilateral step that will crush Israeli deterrence, completely undermine its credibility and make any future peace deal that could be acceptable to Israel impossible”, it adds.

“Even though this would not be a simple step to take because Israel would have to pay the consequences, toppling Abu Mazen’s regime is the only option in such a case.”

‘Unilateral steps’
The paper recommends that if the Palestinians commit to not take any unilateral steps, Israel “must reach a peace deal with them” to create a “state along provisional borders, during a transition period – until the stabilisation of the Arab world, new elections in the Palestinian Authority, and a clarification of the relations between the West Bank and Gaza”.

The Palestinian state would be based in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters, and Area B, where Palestinians would have control over civilian issues alone.

No deadline would be set for negotiations over permanent borders and Israel would not freeze construction in the major Jewish settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, the paper says.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor told the BBC that if President Abbas continued to pursue the UN bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, under which the Palestinian Authority was established.

He said Israel was concerned that if Palestine became a UN non-member state, it could ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resolve disputes with Israel.

In that case, Mr Ben Dor said, Israel would “take unilateral steps to protect its interests”.

He would not elaborate on the measures, but recent reports in the Israeli media suggested they might include halting the transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority and restricting the movement of Palestinian officials through the West Bank.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told the BBC: “We take Israel’s threats seriously and we do not rule out any attempt on Israel’s part to hurt the president.”

On Monday, President Abbas said he did not “want any confrontations with the United States or Israel”, adding: “If we can start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the [UN] vote, we will.”

Jonathan Marcus, BBC Diplomatic Correspondent, adds
The Israeli government is intent on persuading other countries to oppose the Palestinian move at the United Nations. But calls for the potential toppling of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, raise the inevitable question of who or what would replace him?

Chaos in the West Bank is hardly in Israel’s interests. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces, for example, have operated reasonably effectively to clamp down on militant groups.

For now, the Israeli threats should be seen as just that – an attempt to influence the debate and to either convince the Palestinians to back down or to thwart their UN bid.

Lieberman, in letter to world leaders, calls for new elections to oust PA’s Abbas

In letter sent to the foreign ministers of the Middle East Quartet, Lieberman calls PA a ‘despotic government riddled with corruption.’

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
August 22, 2012

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has sent a letter to the foreign ministers of the Middle East Quartet members, calling on them to press for new elections in the Palestinian Authority to replace PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Lieberman described as an obstacle to peace.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, is dated August 20 and was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Click here to read the complete letter

The letter is the high point of a campaign Lieberman has been conducting in the past year to delegitimize Abbas, but it is the first time he has suggested a concrete process for removing him, such as holding new elections. Lieberman did not claim that Abbas is involved in terror attacks against Israel, but stressed that he is acting against Israel in the legal and diplomatic arenas.

“The Palestinian Authority is a despotic government riddled with corruption,” Lieberman wrote. “This pattern of behavior has led to criticism even within his own constituency. Due to Abbas’ weak standing and his policy of not renewing the [peace] negotiations, which is an obstacle to peace, the time has come to consider a creative solution, to think ‘outside the box,’ in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership.”

The creative solution Lieberman suggests is to hold general elections in the PA areas of the West Bank.

“Despite Mr. Abbas’ delays, general elections in the PA should be held, and a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic Palestinian leadership should be elected,” Lieberman stressed. “The PA elections were due to be held in 2010 and have since been postponed several times. As of today, no new date has been set for elections.”

Lieberman noted in his letter that only a new Palestinian leadership is likely to bring progress in the peace process with Israel. “We must maximize the holding of new elections in the PA, alongside the tremendous changes in the Arab world, in order to bring a serious change to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

In his letter, Lieberman lists a serious of gestures that Israel has made toward the Palestinians this year, such as signing a new financial agreement three weeks ago regarding the transfer of goods between Israel and the PA, as well as related tax procedures that will, in Lieberman’s words, “improve the PA’s tax system, increase revenues and bolster the Palestinian economy.”

He also mentioned the issuing of thousands of additional work permits to Palestinian laborers, returning the bodies of terrorists to the PA, removing roadblocks and more.

“Unfortunately, despite these steps … we see a rise of Palestinian activity against Israel in the diplomatic and legal arenas,” he wrote. He noted “attempts to accelerate illegal construction in Area C (including dragging the EU into this problematic activity ), to encourage an economic boycott on the Israeli economy in the territories and … a relatively new campaign, blaming Israel for the murder of Yasser Arafat.”

Lieberman stressed in the letter that Abbas was “either uninterested or unable” to reach an agreement that would bring an end to the conflict because of his weak political position. For corroboration, he referred the foreign ministers to the Jordanians, who he noted had “made a great effort to facilitate direct dialogue between Israel and the PA,” but had gotten nowhere due to Abbas’ attitude.

“This situation is very clear to the Jordanians,” he wrote.

A senior source in the Foreign Ministry said that Lieberman, in a meeting yesterday with 20 senior Israeli ambassadors, said he had written the letter because he sensed that his messages on the Palestinian issue were not being properly conveyed to Western countries.

“A European foreign minister visited here and came to me with complaints about the Palestinian issue,” Lieberman was quoted as telling the ambassadors. “I told him about all the gestures we’ve made toward them and he said, ‘That’s interesting. I never heard about this.”

According to the source, Lieberman reprimanded the envoys and demanded that they be tougher and make sure the messages get through to the foreign ministers of their assigned countries, even if it means going over clerks and diplomats’ heads.

“The message that we convey abroad has to be clear,” Lieberman was quoted as saying. “We mustn’t take a self-deprecating approach, in which we are only apologizing and that even when we make gestures, then the poor Palestinians are only getting what’s coming to them. The gestures we make to the Palestinians are not an obvious matter and are not what’s coming to them. We have to make these things clear and stop apologizing.”

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