Israel fears EU push to upgrade ties with Palestinians

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 22, 2010

Israeli diplomatic representatives in Europe have been directed to try to block plans in ten European countries, including Britain, to boost diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli concern is that the upgrade will be a step towards full recognition of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of an independent state.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem fears a diplomatic onslaught on Israel following the failure to reach an agreement on a second settlement freeze and renewed direct talks with Palestinians. One concern is that Israel cannot rely - as it could in the past - on unconditional American vetoes of critical United Nations resolutions.

The announcement by the Obama administration two weeks ago that efforts to renew direct talks had foundered over a failure to reach an agreement on a moratorium of settlement building has led to a number of initiatives that the Israeli government fear will damage the country on the international stage.

One such move is the plan of ten European governments, including Britain, to upgrade their ties with the Palestinian Authority. Recent decisions by a number of Latin American countries to fully recognise an independent Palestinian state and an attempt by the Arab countries to pass a severe motion of censure against Israel at the UN Security Council over the settlements has also raised concern.

Israeli representatives in Europe have been directed to urge the governments that a decision to upgrade relationships now with the PA will be detrimental to the attempts to push the diplomatic process forward. Local Jewish and pro-Israel organisations will also be enlisted in the effort to lobby the governments. For now, Israel has received assurances that the EU has no plans to recognise a Palestinian state, but other measures to pressure Israel are being considered in Brussels. "We don't have that much faith in our so-called European allies," said one Israeli diplomat this week. "Our main problem though is that we are no longer certain of how much backing we will get from the Obama administration."

Last updated: 1:44pm, December 22 2010