Israeli PM flies to New York over Palestinian UN bid

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to leave for New York early on Wednesday in a bid to make Israel’s case in the face of a controversial Palestinian bid to seek full UN membership.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 20 Sep 2011, 10:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:42 AM

His departure comes just two days before Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to petition the United Nations to grant membership to a Palestinian state on the lines which existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

Abbas, who arrived in New York on Monday morning, has said he will present the membership request to UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday afternoon after he addresses the General Assembly. The move has angered Israel, which says a Palestinian state can only be established through direct negotiations.

Washington is also opposed to the manoeuvre and has vowed to block the request when it is put before the UN Security Council for a vote.

The Israeli leader will arrive early on Wednesday and hold morning talks with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the opening session of the 66th UN General Assembly, with the focus expected to be on the last-minute diplomatic scramble to avert a major crisis over the Palestinian campaign.

On Friday, Netanyahu will also address the General Assembly.

The Israeli leader was to meet with other world leaders during his five-day trip to New York, his spokesman Mark Regev said on Tuesday, without giving further details. Media reports said he would meet Ban on Wednesday afternoon.

But officials said there were no plans to meet Abbas.

On Monday night, Netanyahu had called on the Palestinian leader to meet him in New York to restart peace talks, which ground to a halt almost exactly a year ago following a bitter dispute over Jewish settlement building.

“I call on the president of the Palestinian Authority to open up direct negotiations in New York and that they resume in Jerusalem and in Ramallah,” Netanyahu said.

In response, Abbas told Fox News he would “meet any Israeli official any time” but said there there would be no point in meeting if they had “nothing tangible” to offer.

“We want to see a meeting, we want to see the restart of talks between us and the Palestinians,” Regev told reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

He said Netanyahu’s speech had “not been finalised” but indicated it would include reference to the importance of the Palestinians recognising Israel as a Jewish state and the two-state solution in an address which would “encompass the Israeli consensus.”

The Palestinians need to secure nine votes at the Security Council and avoid a veto if they want their membership bid to pass.

While Washington has pledged to veto the move, it is hoping to avoid such an eventuality, looking instead to sway the other 14 council members to vote against or abstain, thereby ensuring the request fails.

Netanyahu has also been closely involved in Israeli efforts to lean on council members in order to pressure them into voting against or abstaining, local media reports said.

Despite the frenzied activity ahead of Friday’s deadline, several Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s decision to address the General Assembly was a mistake which “looked more like an act of panic than a carefully thought out move,” the Haaretz newspaper reported.

“Netanyahu’s rhetorical talents will not help Israel’s affairs and will fall on deaf ears,” they told the paper.

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