Israel warns of repercussions if state bid succeeds


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Israel's hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, warned of "tough repercussions" if President Mahmoud Abbas won his UN bid for Palestinian statehood recognition, as Mr Abbas returned to an enthusiastic welcome in Ramallah.

Mr Lieberman's warning came as Mr Abbas said he expected the UN Security Council to decide on his application for statehood within weeks rather than months.

The US has already said it will cast its veto if it cannot command the necessary nine-country majority against the Palestinians' application for full UN membership at the Security Council, which holds a preliminary meeting on the issue today.

But that still leaves open the possibility that Mr Abbas and his team will subsequently lodge an application for lesser "non-member state" status through the General Assembly.

The Israeli foreign minister declared on Army Radio: "If the Palestinians will indeed pass a one-sided resolution, if not in the Security Council then the General Assembly, that would bring us to an altogether new situation and this would have repercussions, tough repercussions."

With Israel's Cabinet yet to make a decision on what, if any, measures it might take in response to the UN bid, Mr Lieberman avoided specifics, including two ideas already floated: withholding customs revenues from the Palestinians and "annexation" of settlement blocs in the West Bank.

The White House and Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, have said moves to withdraw funds from the Palestinian Authority would threaten vital co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian security forces. Any further response will await the return of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from the US today. The same applies to Israel's formal response to the call by the Quartet – the UN, EU, Russia and United States – for direct negotiations between the two sides. Palestinian officials were considering the call last night but their negotiators have suggested it will be rejected because it fails to explicitly prescribe a settlement freeze or make clear the borders of a Palestinian state.