AP Interview: Israel lobbying against Palestinians

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2011 1:43 PM
AP Interview: Israel lobbying against Palestinians

An Israeli Cabinet minister said Monday that his government is making "every effort" to prevent the U.N. from voting in favor of Palestinian statehood, but acknowledged he is fighting a losing battle.

Gilad Erdan told The Associated Press that Israel is conducting a furious last-ditch campaign urging other governments to vote against the Palestinian statehood bid. Israel says Palestinian independence can be reached only through negotiations.

"Right now, we are making every effort that we can in order to prevent the mistake of a unilateral declaration," said Erdan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party who will be part of Israel's delegation to the upcoming session of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Palestinian initiative would be largely symbolic. The U.S. has already said it will exercise its veto in the Security Council, the powerful body that must support full membership. Instead, the Palestinians are likely to apply for "nonmember state" status in the broader General Assembly.

Erdan warned that any vote risked sparking violence in the Palestinian territories and could undermine future peace talks by hardening Palestinian positions. He said Israel has not yet determined how it would react.

With the Palestinians enjoying widespread support in the General Assembly, which is dominated by developing nations, Erdan said it would be difficult to change minds at the U.N.

Asked what it would be like to watch the international community vote against Israel, he said: "Well, the feeling is not good."

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to detail his request for recognition in an address to the U.N. on Sept. 23.

In Cairo Monday, Abbas was scheduled to meet the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to discuss the status of the initiative.

Earlier, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr told Ashton that Arabs are supporting Palestinian drive for recognition because negotiations have not resulted in peace.

Ashton said in a statement that the EU supports resumption of peace negotiations as the way forward but has not formulated a position on the Palestinian drive.

The Palestinian campaign reached Brussels Monday when pro-Palestinian activists erected a four-story-high Palestinian flag in front of EU headquarters, calling on European nations to support the U.N. initiative.

Avaaz, the organization behind the display, said it had gathered more than 900,000 signatures in favor of the initiative.

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Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Cairo and Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report.