Israel’s former ambassador to the UN said that Israeli politicians have overreacted to the Palestinian bid to win recognition from the UN General Assembly as a nonmember state, which she considered a largely symbolic move.
“Our reaction was certainly exaggerated,” Gabriela Shalev, a law professor appointed as UN ambassador by Ehud Olmert in 2008, serving until 2010, told The Times of Israel. She was referring to statements by Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz who called the Palestinian bid “a strategic threat” to Israel and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman who dubbed it “political terrorism.”
The Palestinian Authority has decided to seek UN General Assembly recognition for “Palestine” as a nonmember state November 29, after failing to attain support for full membership through the Security Council in 2011 under threat of a US veto.
Israel fears that even an nonmember, “Palestine” could file lawsuits against it at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It also argues that unilateral steps such as the UN bid run counter to the Oslo peace accords signed between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.
Shalev argued that this time, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN bid was motivated by domestic political considerations no less than the Israeli political reactions to it.
“I don’t want to discuss politics, but… we should look at the other side. Abu Mazen [Abbas] too has political [considerations]. He also has elections and a constituency.”
Shalev said the true problem with the UN bid lies not in the diplomatic fallout toward Israel — which will be minor — but in its ineffectiveness in creating a positive dynamic for peace.
“This move creates bad blood. It causes more hostility, more suspicion between the two sides. The Palestinians will get nothing out of this except evoking world opinion, which is on their side anyway.”
As of Wednesday, a number of Western European countries including France, Spain and Switzerland indicated they would vote in favor of the Palestinian membership. In her experience as ambassador to the UN, “Palestine” already enjoys de facto state status, Shalev added. Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour is extremely active in UN activity and is regarded as an equal by his fellow representatives.
Unilateral steps should be rejected in principle, Shalev claimed, citing the failure of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 in bringing about peace and stability in the south.
Last week, the Israeli embassy in Washington DC uploaded to YouTube two short animated videos pleading with Abbas to forgo the UN bid and return to the negotiating table. But Shalev said that statements are not enough.
“What we need now is to initiate real steps. Not just to tell the Palestinians ‘come to the negotiating table, and let’s talk straight.’ We need to move toward the Palestinians, show willingness at the table, and discuss everything.”