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Israel threatens 'repercussions' if Palestine statehood bid succeeds
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Israel threatened yesterday that there would be "tough repercussions" towards the Palestinian Authority if the United Nations approved the Palestinian quest for recognition of independent statehood.

The threat was made by Israel's far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, as prospects for renewing peace talks on the creation of a Palestinian state appeared dim after the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday suggested he may reject a plan by the so-called Middle East Quartet for restarting negotiations.

The Quartet - the US, UN, European Union and Russia - announced a proposal on Friday for Israelis and Palestinians to meet within a month and set up a new agenda for peace talks in a bid to avoid a confrontation between the two sides in the aftermath of the Palestinian UN request. The Quartet had called for a deadline of the end of 2012 for reaching a peace deal.

The proposal came just hours after Mr Abbas officially declared the Palestinians' request for the UN Security Council to approve Palestine as a full UN member, a prospect fiercely opposed by Israel and likely to be vetoed by the US.

Today, the Security Council is expected to begin discussing the Palestinian application, according to the UN ambassador for Lebanon, which this month holds the body's rotating presidency.

The possibility that the Quartet's plan would be embraced by the Israelis and the Palestinians appeared minimal yesterday as top Israeli and Palestinian officials engaged in a war of words.

Mr Lieberman told an Israeli radio station that if the Palestinians are successful in either the UN Security Council or the General Assembly, "that would bring us to an altogether new situation and this would have repercussions, tough repercussions."

Mr Lieberman did not spell out what steps Israel may take, but they were likely to include financial ramifications. That is because Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli finance minister, threatened last week to stop transferring tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians and that account for about two thirds of the Palestinian Authority's revenues. Mr Steinitz has already temporarily curtailed the transfer of taxes in May.

By Vita Bekker, 27 September, 2011