Foreign Ministry documents outline instructions to envoys to thwart international recognition of Palestinian state.
by Barak Ravid
Israel has started mobilizing its embassies for the battle against UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September, ordering its diplomats to convey that this would delegitimize Israel and foil any chance for future peace talks.
Envoys are being asked to lobby the highest possible officials in their countries of service, muster support from local Jewish communities, ply the media with articles arguing against recognition and even ask for a call or quick visit from a top Israeli official if they think it would help.
Foreign Ministry Director General Rafael Barak and the heads of various ministry departments sent out classified cables outlining the battle plan to the embassies over the past week, after earlier ordering all the country’s diplomats to cancel any vacations planned for September. The contents of the cables reached Haaretz and are reported here in full.
“The goal we have set is to have the maximum number of countries oppose the process of having the UN recognize a Palestinian state,” Barak wrote to Israel’s ambassadors in his cable, which was sent June 2. “The Palestinian effort must be referred to as a process that erodes the legitimacy of the State of Israel…
“The primary argument is that by pursuing this process in the UN, the Palestinians are trying to achieve their aims in a manner other than negotiations with Israel, and this violates the principle that the only route to resolving the conflict is through bilateral negotiations.”
Each envoy was ordered to prepared a focused plan for the country in which he or she serves and present it to the Foreign Ministry by today, June 10.
“The goal is to get the country in which you serve to vote against recognizing a Palestinian state,” Barak wrote. “Your plan must include approaching the most senior politicians, mobilizing the relevant force multipliers [such as local Jewish communities, nongovernmental organizations], using the media, influencing local public opinion, and public diplomacy aimed at all the relevant communities.”
Barak also informed the emissaries that the ministry had established a “September Forum” headed by the director of its Middle East Department, Yaakov Hadas.
“This team is analyzing possible Palestinian moves and the options open to Israel to foil the process, and is putting together a diplomatic, public diplomacy and media plan,” Barak wrote. “You are to report on your activities to the September Forum once a week.”
“The mission that has been assigned to us is not an easy one,” the cable concluded. “But I’m sure that by joining forces, we will do the best we can to achieve the goal we’ve set for ourselves.”
A Foreign Ministry source said the directive issued to ambassadors by both Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the ministry director general is not to give up on any country in advance, and to work to obtain a hearing with the highest possible officials in each country.
This past Sunday, June 5, the head of the ministry’s Western Europe department, Naor Gilon, sent a follow-up cable to embassies in all European Union countries. A similar cable was sent by the head of the Eurasia Department, Pinhas Avivi, to representatives in the EU countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
In his cable, Gilon asked the ambassadors to prepare plans “that will lead the country in which you serve to oppose or abstain during a UN vote.” It divided the EU countries into three groups:
- * Countries that have already voiced objections to unilateral Palestinian action. A Foreign Ministry source put Germany and Italy in this category.
- * Countries whose stance is unclear, particularly members of the former Eastern Bloc that had recognized a Palestinian state back in 1988. These include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In two weeks, Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are planning to make separate trips to these countries in an effort to persuade them to vote against a Palestinian state.
- * Countries that tend to automatically side with the Palestinians and are expected to support a Palestinian state, among them Sweden, Ireland, Belgium and Portugal.
Gilon wrote that the Foreign Ministry believes the 27 EU members “will have difficulty reaching a consensus decision on recognizing a Palestinian state, as happened with regard to [recognizing] Kosovo. Even so, it’s clear that the EU bureaucracy in Brussels will try to enter into a dialogue with the Palestinians in an effort to moderate the [UN] resolution so that EU members could support it.
“Everyone knows where the country he serves in stands,” Gilon wrote. “Our goal is to create momentum against recognition of a Palestinian state in September by creating a significant bloc of EU states that voice their opposition as early as possible to unilateral Palestinian action.” Another goal is to try to persuade those countries which have already said they will vote in favor of the Palestinian move to refrain from publicly stating their position.
Gilon tasked the ambassadors with trying to spur as many politicians and opinion-makers as possible to either make public declarations or issue statements opposing unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. He also instructed them to generate negative media reports and op-eds objecting to the Palestinian moves.
The ambassadors were asked to inform the September Forum of any requests they receive from their respective countries’ leaders to speak by phone with President Shimon Peres, Netanyahu or Lieberman, and to indicate whether a diplomatic visit by senior Israeli officials before September might be helpful in persuading top officials in the countries where they serve.
But one senior Foreign Ministry official said that regardless of what efforts are made, only a few countries will vote against recognizing a Palestinian state in a General Assembly vote, including the United States, Canada and a few European countries. The ministry’s assessment is that most Asian, African and South American countries will vote in favor.
Barak Ravid is the diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz newspaper. He joined Haaretz in April 2007, covering the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense, dealing with issues such as U.S.-Israeli relations, EU-Israeli relations and the peace process.
Before joining Haaretz, Barak Ravid worked for two years for Maariv daily newspaper, spending a year covering the Palestinian Authority and a year as a diplomatic correspondent.
Ravid has a BA in the history of the Middle East from the University of Tel Aviv. He served for six years as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and concluded his service with the rank of captain. He and his wife live in Tel Aviv.