Israel resigned to Palestinian success


Last-ditch diplomatic attempts this week to convince the Palestinian leadership to postpone its plan to receive United Nations recognition of an independent state are not expected to succeed. Both the Palestinians and Israelis are already planning for the day after, downplaying the expectations of a new round of violence in the West Bank.

Former British Prime Minister and EU envoy, Tony Blair, was in Israel and the Palestinian areas this week in intensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as were senior American diplomats, Dennis Ross and David Hale. The envoys were trying to reach a formula for relaunching peace talks as an alternative to the divisive UN vote.

Despite Mr Blair saying that he was "optimistic" about his chances of success, it was very hard to hear notes of optimism in Jerusalem this week. The Foreign Ministry is already acting on the assumption that the vote will go forward and that Palestinian statehood will receive overwhelming support with a small minority in opposition and abstention from a few western countries, including the United States.

Palestinian official spokesmen confirmed this week that the decision to go to the UN is final, though a number of sources have said in recent days that there is still room for compromise. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself remained opaque.

This week, he told a visiting Israeli delegation in his office in Ramallah that "we are going to complain to the UN that we have lived under occupation since the days of the Ottoman Empire and we want independence. We want to work with Israel, not isolate it. We encourage the Arab states to recognise Israel, as we pushed the Arab League peace proposal." But Mr Abbas would not say for certain whether the Palestinian Authority would actually ask the UN General Assembly to vote on an independent state. He revealed that he had met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Jordan two weeks ago, but did not divulge details of their talks.

‘We are ready for the worst but it may be ok’

The Israeli security establishment is meanwhile preparing for whatever may happen in the wake of the UN vote.

Senior Shin Bet officials and IDF officers have said in recent days that they believe that the Palestinian Authority has "no interest" in a violent uprising at this stage, and that they believe the assurance of their counterparts in the Palestinian security forces who said they will keep a lid on any outbreak of violence.

"We are preparing for the worst, but we don't think it will happen," said one officer. "The atmosphere on the ground now is relatively calm. While an escalation could happen, we don't feel the petrol fumes in the air yet."

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