Is Israel ready for UN battle?

Much has been written about what a certain UN General Assembly meeting in September this year could mean in the history of Israel. Put simply, the country is facing a diplomatic D-Day.

September is the month in which Palestinian leaders are likely to seek recognition for an independent state with the pre-1967 borders, if no progress is made in the peace process by then.

But if you're wondering why anyone should bat an eyelid at the thought that, once again, an anti-Israel resolution is set to be cooked up at the UN, think again.

This time, not only are the Palestinians assured of a massive majority in the General Assembly but, last week, signs began to emerge that the US will not use its Security Council veto to prevent the resolution on an independent Palestinian state from passing to the Assembly. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak's much quoted comment - that a "diplomatic tsunami" is heading towards Israel - looks ever more prescient.

For some time, Peres has been the man Obama prefers to deal with

And when the wave arrives, things could get nasty. Israel is briefing its envoys around the world to explain that Israel will have no option but to respond with unilateral action.

This is likely to mean Israel annexing the "settlement blocs" - the West Bank areas whose status would be decided in negotiations. To understand what might happen next, log on to Facebook. Young Arabs are getting organised. They know - and Israel knows - that the UN vote could be an opportunity for the Arab spring to blossom in the West Bank.

As Alon Pinkas, ex-Israeli consul general to the US, told me: "What will we do if thousands of Arabs march out of the West Bank and into Jerusalem? We will not have an answer." This is the historical moment at which Israel needs, more than ever, to bring world governments onside and seek to restart the peace talks. So who is doing that job?

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister, no longer has time for diplomacy - or even the credibility to carry out diplomatic functions - now that he has been indicted on fraud charges and is set to spend the summer attempting to avoid going to court.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will take charge if Lieberman resigns. That Ayalon has the diplomatic savvy to make any headway in such a role at such a crucial time for Israel looks doubtful. Ayalon is the man who, in early 2010, was forced by President Shimon Peres to apologise to the Turkish ambassador, whom he placed, for the purposes of humiliation, on a low chair during a meeting.

As for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, just before he was due to go to Washington to meet US President Barack Obama, allegations surfaced in the press that he had accepted a series of expensive freebies while on holiday. As usual, Peres stepped into the breach and, after fighting off criticism of Netanyahu at home, flew to Washington - for some time he has been the man Obama prefers to do business with.

Then it emerged that Israel was planning to build 942 new homes beyond the Green Line: the sweet words that Peres sung in Obama's ear were forgotten. By the end of the week, the US President let the Israelis know he was furious and signalled that he may not back Israel at the UN in September. Netanyahu responded by announcing that in May he will present his peace plan to the US Congress. This may be too little, too late.

Obama, along with the rest of the world, is already looking to impose his "solution" on Israel and the PA.

Netanyahu's bet that approaching US elections would convince Obama not to risk getting too involved now looks shaky. At his meeting with Peres, Obama made it clear that he is preparing to push his own peace plan. Meanwhile Britain, France, Germany and other European governments will, in the coming weeks, use the Quartet (the EU, US, Russia and the UN) to draw up the framework of a peace treaty, using the pre-1967 borders as a basis.

If the Israeli government really believes that it can make peace with the Palestinians while securing the future of the Jewish state, it is signally failing to convince world leaders of this.

It is also failing to understand that the longer it waits, the less relevant its own message becomes: outside events and powers are looking ever more likely to determine Israel's future. If it is not careful, history will leave Israel trailing in its wake.

    Last updated: 1:46pm, April 22 2011