Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Monday called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said his determination to seek nonmember status at the UN later this month posed a “strategic threat” to Israel.
Steinitz’s statements followed news earlier Monday of a Foreign Ministry position paper that threatened to topple the Abbas’s government if the United Nations voted to upgrade the entity’s status.
“I am not in favor of crushing the Palestinian Authority, but if we have no choice in the face of a strategic threat, we should not fear taking such measures,” said Steinitz in an interview to Israel Radio.
Steinitz pointed to the situation in the Gaza Strip since Israel’s unilateral pullout in 2005, arguing that it foreshadowed what would happen in the West Bank if the Palestinians gained independence without negotiating security arrangements.
“Look at what happened in Gaza. The same thing would happen in Nablus, Kalkilya and Ramalla. We would see Kassam and Grad rockets fall on Kfar Saba and Petah Tikva. That — we cannot live with,” he said.
Steinitz repeated his threat that Israel would not collect taxes on the Palestinians’ behalf, nor deliver the money to the PA, nor assist Ramallah in economic matters if the Palestinians insist on advancing their bid.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Abbas had lost control of the Palestinian street and that his diplomatic efforts to gain UN nonmember status were “political terrorism” aimed at saving his own skin.
“Abbas looks around him and sees his fellow Arab leaders falling to the sidelines, and wants to save himself,” said Liberman in an address at Ariel University. “The Palestinian Authority has ceased to exist. All we have now is Hamastan on one side and Fatahland on the other.”
A draft position paper authored by Liberman’s office, presumably meant to deter the Palestinian leadership from its bid to upgrade its status at the UN, said that despite the risk of such a move, “removing Abbas from power would be the only option in such a scenario.”
Jerusalem considers the Palestinian statehood bid a violation of signed agreements
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the Israeli threat should be taken seriously. “Why is it alright for Abbas to initiate steps that counter agreements and not us?” he said in an interview to Israel Radio Wednesday. “Israel should also take the opportunity to announce that it is annexing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank,” Erdan added.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Army Radio that Israel would “have to take steps to make it clear that there will be a heavy price” if the Palestinians go ahead with their plan. He said it would be a “flagrant” breach of the accords but stopped short of saying they would be rendered void.
Despite serious pressure from Jerusalem and Washington, Abbas told US President Barack Obama in a phone conversation on Sunday that he would ask the UN General Assembly to accept Palestine as a nonmember state later this month. An overwhelming majority of the body’s 193 member states is expected to vote in favor of Abbas’s proposal, which Israeli officials fear would have far-reaching negative implications for Israel.
While Palestine would not have a vote in the General Assembly, it would hope to come under the aegis of the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, where it could mount legal challenges to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On Monday, Abbas offered to restart peace talks immediately after the UN bid.
The vote on Palestinian statehood will take place on November 29, the anniversary of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which called for a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. November 29 is also the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.