Late Tuesday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned that the planned Palestinian move would undermine negotiations. "None of us should act in any way that would place a return to talks at risk. There can be no substitute for meaningful negotiations," he said in a speech at Yale University.
Palestinians, exasperated after 44 years of Israeli occupation, insist they have no choice but to sidestep talks that have foundered for nearly two decades amid a toxic mix of intransigence, violence and failure of will.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists he hasn't closed the door on negotiations, but only on condition Israel stop building settlements on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state. Israel refuses to do that, saying the future of settlements will be settled once an agreement is reached on the final borders of Jewish and Palestinian states.
General Assembly recognition would not change the situation on the ground. But the Palestinians hope to use their upgraded status on the world stage to press their claims for a homeland. They also hope it will be a springboard for admission to other U.N. bodies, including the International Criminal Court, where they hope to prosecute Israel on war crimes charges.
Vice Premier Yaalon said an appeal to the U.N. would be a "flagrant" breach of the Oslo accords of the early 1990s, which require disputes to be settled through dialogue. He stopped short of saying they would be rendered void.
"Let's wait," he said. "But we can't let it go by and must take steps to make it clear there will be a heavy price," he said.
He didn't specify what measures Israel might take. An end to the accords could stop cooperation with the Palestinians in a wide range of areas. Among other things, it could withhold the transfer of millions of dollars in taxes and customs it collects on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank government and block the import of equipment for Palestinian security forces, an Israeli official explained.