Israel has launched a global diplomatic campaign to persuade countries to vote against recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September.
Classified cables have been sent from the foreign ministry in Jerusalem to embassies around the world, instructing diplomats to draw up plans to mobilize against the Palestinian campaign for recognition, according to the newspaper Haaretz, which obtained the documents.
Diplomatic missions have been told to lobby government officials in the countries in which they serve, offer articles and interviews arguing against recognition to media outlets, enlist the help of local Jewish communities and if necessary request visits from top Israeli officials.
Israel is deeply concerned that a majority vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly will lead to increased pressure for it to end its occupation of the West Bank and its continued, albeit eased, blockade of Gaza. It says the Palestinian campaign is an attempt to delegitimize Israel and scupper any prospect of renewed peace talks.
The Palestinians say that, in the absence of serious negotiations with Israel for a state, the UN route is their best option for furthering their cause. However, they risk a diplomatic breach with the US, which has said it opposes the plan.
A majority of countries at the General Assembly are expected to support recognition. The vote would be a significant symbolic boost for the Palestinians.
According to the Israeli foreign ministry cables, sent on June 2 by director-general Rafael Barak, Israel’s goal is to maximize the number of countries voting against recognition.
“The Palestinian effort must be referred to as a process that erodes the legitimacy of the state of Israel,” he wrote. “The primary argument is that by pursuing this process in the UN, the Palestinians are trying to achieve their aims in a manner other than in negotiations with Israel, and this violates the principle that the only route to resolving the conflict is through bilateral negotiations.”
Embassies were ordered to report back every week to a “September forum” established by the ministry.
“[This] team is analyzing possible Palestinian moves and the options open to Israel to foil the process, and is putting together a diplomatic, public diplomacy and media plan,” Barak wrote.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor said: “I cannot comment on leaked documents.”
Israel is particularly concerned about the stance of European counties. Germany has already said it is opposed to recognition at the general assembly. The UK and France have indicated that they may support the Palestinian move if no serious return to talks is in prospect.