Israel Braces For Palestinian Statehood Bid

Israel and the United States strongly object to the Palestinian effort to seek U.N. membership. Host Audie Cornish talks about the possible repercussions of the Palestinians' statehood bid with Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, says in no uncertain terms that if Palestinians further their statehood bid at the U.N., it will jeopardize the existing agreements between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States.

CORNISH: The United States and Israel have numerous agreements with the Palestinian Authority, established under the 1993 Oslo Accords. The United States is a co-signatory to those accords between Israel and the Palestinians. Great number of agreements that cover a wide range of issues; trade issues, water rights, security. We have all these agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

We have no agreements with a government of Palestine, and neither does the United States. So the emergence of a government of Palestine in place of the Palestinian Authority would place all of these pre-existing agreements in jeopardy.

CORNISH: What are the other repercussions that Israel is considering? I know, in the United States, Congress is talking about what to do with aid to the Palestinian Authority, which is about five hundred million dollars annually.

OREN: Well, Congress is indeed talking about that. They're talking about cutting off that aid because the Palestinians have violated their agreements, also by going to the U.N. And also by making a reconciliation pact with Hamas, which is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Beyond that we are preparing a number of possible reactions - a toolbox, if you will. We fear that there will be large-scale demonstrations in the West Bank orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority, and we don't want these to be confused with the Arab Spring. This is not about jobs or opportunity. This is about attacking Israel, and we're preparing our security forces and some of our citizens to deal with those demonstrations through nonlethal means.

And that's a fear.

CORNISH: Are you saying this is about attacking Israel. But, of course, the argument from the Palestinian Authority is that this is a move for recognition that would bring some kind of parity or equitable role for them within peace talks.

OREN: Well, they haven't been at peace talks. We've been waiting for them to come to the negotiating table for about two and a half years now, and they haven't come to the negotiating table.

CORNISH: We are ready to negotiate with the Palestinians at any time, any place - whether in Ramallah or in Jerusalem - without preconditions on all the core issues to reach a two-state solution, a Palestinian state, an Israeli-Jewish state, living side by side in mutual recognition, security and peace, if only the Palestinians will come back to the negotiating table.

CORNISH: But negotiations have essentially been stalled for various reasons. And in effect, isn't what they're doing actually in some ways succeeding in goosing this conversation forward?

OREN: Well, I think it's actually stopping the conversation dead, Audie. You know, when you go to negotiations you have to be able to give up a few things. Palestinian leaders are going to come to their people and say, we're going to have to give up a lot, but we're going to be getting something from it. We're going to be getting a Palestinian state. The Palestinian people will come back to leaders and say, but wait a minute, we already have a Palestinian state. Why are you making all these sacrifices?

So essentially, by getting a Palestinian state unilaterally recognized without paying any price for it in the U.N., the Palestinians will hamstring their ability to make negotiations and make concessions, maybe for generations to come. It'll be very tragic.

CORNISH: Michael Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States. He spoke with us here in our Washington studios.

Ambassador Oren, thank you so much.

OREN: Thank you, Audie.

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