Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned of "far-reaching and severe ramifications," while Netanyahu reportedly told colleagues behind closed doors that a successful U.N. bid would "stymie negotiations for the next 60 years."
Peace talks broke down a year ago after a moratorium on Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank expired. Settlements are considered illegal by the international community, and the Palestinians say they won't come back to the negotiating table until settlement building stops. Israel counters that there can't be pre-conditions for negotiations.
Now Palestinians are looking for international recognition based on lines before the 1967 six-day war in which Israel won control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Palestinian officials say they'd be willing to start negotiating again if Israel agrees to halt settlement expansion and use the 1967 borders with land swaps as a basis for negotiations.
"The differences are not between Palestinians and Americans, the problem is between the Palestinians and Israel," said the Palestinian Authority's Khatib. "But if they're not able to convince Israel on anything, there will be nothing new."
Israel points to the lack of success in negotiations during last year's settlement freeze and asks why anything should be different this time around. Netanyahu has conceded that "painful compromises" will have to be made but has called the 1967 borders "indefensible."
Abbas is planning to speak to Palestinians on Friday evening and rallies are being organized across the Palestinian cities in the coming days as the Palestinian delegation heads to New York.
There is ever-present worry that the statehood demonstrations could turn violent, though the Palestinian Authority has said it will do its utmost to keep the peace. An article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz toda revealed that the PA had requested anti-riot gear from Israel.
For its part, Israel has reportedly added 20 percent more forces in the West Bank and spent more than $20 million on non-lethal crowd dispersion weapons including tear gas, plastic bullets and "skunk," a nausea-inducing spray.
The U.N. bid comes as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated in a region where it already had few friends. Relations with Turkey have broken down over Israel's refusal to apologize for the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American on last year's aid flotilla bound for Gaza. Israel says its forces were acting in self-defense and has expressed regret. Israel's embassy in Cairo was attacked last week and its diplomatic staff was forced to evacuate.
On Wednesday night, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told ABC News it was also pulling back its diplomatic staff from its embassy in the Jordanian capital of Amman because of a protest planned for Thursday evening, though he said they would go back after the weekend.