Middle East

Israel ministry paper proposes 'toppling' Abbas over UN bid

Mahmoud Abbas speaks on the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat (11 November 2012)
Image caption Mahmoud Abbas wants Palestine to be admitted as an observer state based on pre-1967 boundaries

A position paper by Israel's foreign ministry proposes "toppling" President Mahmoud Abbas if Palestine's bid for UN non-member state status is approved.

The internal document says it is "the only option" if deterrence efforts do not succeed, despite the consequences.

It also suggests that the Palestinians should be offered immediate recognition of statehood within provisional borders as an incentive to drop their UN bid.

Mr Abbas plans to submit a request to the UN General Assembly on 29 November.

Currently, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the umbrella group which represents most Palestinian factions and conducts negotiations with Israel, only has "permanent observer" status at the UN.

Mr Abbas, who is chairman of the PLO and president of the Palestinian Authority, wants Palestine to be admitted as a non-member observer state based on the boundaries which existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war.

'Extract heavy price'

The Israeli position paper, a copy of which has been obtained by the BBC, is intended for use in internal discussions and has not been endorsed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

However, Mr Lieberman was quoted last week by Israeli Channel 10 TV as saying he would ensure that the Palestinian Authority "collapses" if its unilateral UN bid went ahead.

He has also in the past described Mr Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, as an "obstacle that needs to be removed".

The position paper states that the "main goal of the State of Israel" is to deter the Palestinians from unilaterally seeking non-member observer state status at the UN, which should be seen as "crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response".

"If deterrence efforts do not succeed, Israel must extract a heavy price from Abu Mazen," it says.

The reality of a Palestinian state recognised by the UN is a "unilateral step that will crush Israeli deterrence, completely undermine its credibility and make any future peace deal that could be acceptable to Israel impossible", it adds.

"Even though this would not be a simple step to take because Israel would have to pay the consequences, toppling Abu Mazen's regime is the only option in such a case."

'Unilateral steps'

The paper recommends that if the Palestinians commit to not take any unilateral steps, Israel "must reach a peace deal with them" to create a "state along provisional borders, during a transition period - until the stabilisation of the Arab world, new elections in the Palestinian Authority, and a clarification of the relations between the West Bank and Gaza".

The Palestinian state would be based in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters, and Area B, where Palestinians would have control over civilian issues alone.

No deadline would be set for negotiations over permanent borders and Israel would not freeze construction in the major Jewish settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, the paper says.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor told the BBC that if President Abbas continued to pursue the UN bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, under which the Palestinian Authority was established.

He said Israel was concerned that if Palestine became a UN non-member state, it could ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resolve disputes with Israel.

In that case, Mr Ben Dor said, Israel would "take unilateral steps to protect its interests".

He would not elaborate on the measures, but recent reports in the Israeli media suggested they might include halting the transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority and restricting the movement of Palestinian officials through the West Bank.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told the BBC: "We take Israel's threats seriously and we do not rule out any attempt on Israel's part to hurt the president."

On Monday, President Abbas said he did not "want any confrontations with the United States or Israel", adding: "If we can start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the [UN] vote, we will."

More on this story