Israel sees huge backing for Palestinians at UN


Israel expects a massive vote for the Palestinians when they seek membership of the United Nations next month, Haaretz newspaper on Sunday quoted Israel’s UN ambassador as saying. “Only a few countries will vote against the Palestinian initiative,” envoy Ron Prosor wrote in a classified cable to the foreign ministry, a copy of which was leaked to the newspaper. “The most that can be achieved is a group of states who will abstain or absent themselves during the vote,” he wrote, adding that his comments were based on more than 60 meetings with other UN envoys.
The contents of Prosor’s message were confirmed to AFP by an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity. Quoting a senior foreign ministry source, the paper said that only five countries had told Israel they would vote against the Palestinian bid: the United States, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The ministry is expecting 130 to 140 of the 193 UN member countries to endorse Palestinian membership — a majority of more than two thirds. This, however, is still not enough to ratify an application for UN membership, which must be approved by the Security Council where Washington has pledged to use its veto against the initiative.
But the General Assembly could raise the Palestinians’ standing at the UN from its current observer status to that of a non-member state, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki and other officials have said. That would allow them to become a full member of UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation, UNESCO the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and children’s agency UNICEF.
Last week, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he expected at least 150 states to vote “for recognition of the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem as a full member at the United Nations.” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday asked European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to help ensure that Europe supports the Palestinian application. The two met at Abbas’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah at the start of a visit by Ashton meant to encourage Israel and the Palestinians to renew direct talks, which collapsed last September.