Palestinian UN bid is an ‘act of war,’ minister charges

Yuval Steinitz says Israel may have to mull dismantling PA after draft statehood resolution submitted to Security Council

Ricky Ben-David is a Times of Israel editor and reporter

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

The submission overnight Wednesday of a Palestinian-sponsored UN draft resolution calling for a peace deal within a year, and demanding an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by the end of 2017, drew a spate of condemnations by Israeli ministers.

Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli minister of intelligence, international relations and strategic affairs, said Thursday morning that the Palestinian draft resolution was an “act of war.”

“The Palestinians made sure to remove any mention of Israel’s status as a Jewish state from the draft, which means this is not an act of peace, it’s an act of war,” he told Israel Radio.

Steinitz called for Israel to weigh a harsh response, including cutting off ties with the Palestinian Authority and even dismantling it.

“We need to consider every move including cutting off economic ties with the PA and stopping the transfer of taxes collected on its behalf,” he said.

“If the PA continues to incite against us, against our existence, against the Jewish nation, if it [continues to] take unilateral action, we need to respond not just in the international sphere but also in the Palestinian sphere and to consider, if there is no other choice, dismantling the [Palestinian] Authority,” he added.

Steinitz said that if the terms of the Palestinian bid are adopted by the international community, it will precipitate a Hamas and Islamic State takeover of the West Bank.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said the PA’s UN bid served no real purpose, and urged the Security Council to address more pressing matters rather than be taken up with “Palestinian gimmicks.”

“[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas is undertaking actions with the sole purpose of taunting Israel. They serve no real purpose for the Palestinian people. On the contrary, these actions will only worsen the conflict and will not advance a peace deal because without Israel’s agreement, nothing will change [on the ground],” he said in a statement.

“The Security Council is better served dealing with issues of true importance in the world, like how to handle the deadly terror we saw this week in Australia and Pakistan. Or the Syrian civil war, or Libya, and not waste its time on Palestinian gimmicks,” he added.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said Israel should respond with a construction boom in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In a Facebook post, Ariel urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the “silent construction freeze” and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in the capital and in the West Bank. “Judea and Samaria are part of Israel and as legitimate as Tel Aviv and Haifa and instead of apologizing, we should state that clearly,” he wrote.

Overnight Wednesday, the Palestinians submitted a UN draft resolution setting a 12-month deadline to reach a final peace deal with Israel and the end of 2017 as the date for completing an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

The text obtained by AFP said a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation” and “fulfills the vision” of a Palestinian state should be reached no later than 12 months after the adoption of the resolution.

It also defined a series of parameters for the negotiated solution including a phased Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories according to a timeframe “not to exceed the end of 2017.”

The Palestinian representative to the UN said there could still be negotiations on the text.

The draft was presented to the UN Security Council by fellow Arab member Jordan, envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters, thanking Arab and European nations for their help and indicating he would not press for a quick vote on the text, to allow for more discussion.

The Palestinians had earlier said they wanted a quick vote on the draft resolution but they backed down, apparently under pressure from fellow Arab states including Jordan, which is still seeking a draft that will be acceptable to the United States.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier that Washington had “no problem” with Palestinians moving to boost their hopes for statehood, providing it doesn’t heighten tensions.

The US diplomat insisted “we haven’t seen the language yet, we don’t know precisely what was filed,” adding that Washington had been “troubled by some of the language that had been out there at different points of time.”

Kerry only returned Wednesday from a whirlwind three-day trip to Europe, where he sought to head off a showdown at the United Nations.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to respond to Palestinian claims that Kerry had told Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that Washington would veto a resolution, which the Palestinians said they had asked Jordan to submit on their behalf.

Israel fiercely opposes any suggestion that the Security Council impose terms for a Palestinian state, insisting on bilateral negotiations. Talks initiated by Kerry last year broke down in the spring after the two sides couldn’t agree on the ground rules.

The Palestinian push at the Security Council is largely symbolic, but comes amid growing international pressure for Palestinian statehood which has seen a series of European parliaments vote to ask their governments to recognize a Palestinian state.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is under domestic pressure to take steps toward statehood after US-led negotiations with Israel hit a dead end. Israel has refused to resume talks with Abbas so long as he is partnered with Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, in a so-called Palestinian unity government. Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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