JERUSALEM Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday Israel should sever contacts with the Palestinian Authority over its plans to ask the United Nations in September to upgrade the Palestinians' status in the world body.
Citing calls by some Palestinian officials for protests to coincide with the U.N. session, Lieberman, an ultranationalist, told reporters: "What is clear is the Palestinian Authority plans violence and bloodshed of a type we have not yet seen."
Lieberman said he would "demand that we cut off all contact" with the Palestinian Authority, led by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, "at the earliest moment," ahead of a request to upgrade Palestinian status at the United Nations
The United States, which has veto power in the U.N. Security Council, is expected to oppose any Abbas bid to seek a unilateral U.N. mandate for statehood in the absence of peace talks with Israel, now frozen by intractable differences over conditions for resuming them.
Palestinian officials say that under an alternative plan, Abbas would ask the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine to a non-member state from its current status as an observer.
It was unclear whether Lieberman could win approval in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government for cutting off contact with the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.
But his remarks to reporters at a briefing in parliament seemed to reflect growing Israeli concerns about facing potential fallout from Palestinian plans at the United Nations.
Lieberman voiced disquiet that a U.N. status upgrade would give the Palestinians better access to the World Court and other international bodies, where they could seek war crimes proceedings against Israeli soldiers.
He said Palestinian plans to hold marches to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank to back their U.N. bid would inevitably lead to violent confrontations with Israeli troops.
"Just imagine if 40,000 people try to charge through" a checkpoint in the Jerusalem area, he said. He saw such a protest as "stirring of violence to an extent we haven't yet seen."
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, sponsored by the United States, have been paralysed for nearly a year. U.S. efforts to revive them as September nears have made no visible progress.
Netanyahu's government, dominated by parties associated with Jewish settlers in the West Bank, has rejected a Palestinian demand for a halt to settlement-building before talks resume.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)