In a series of retaliatory moves against the Palestinian Authority, Israel on
Tuesday night decided to accelerate Jewish construction over the pre-1967 lines
and temporarily suspend the transfer of tax funds to the PA.
immediately slammed the two decisions made by the Inner Cabinet, a forum of
eight ministers, which had convened for several hours.RELATED:
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to build new housing units in east Jerusalem and two West Bank settlements will
destroy the peace process, the PA warned.
“It’s a blow to the Quartet
efforts to achieve peace,” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President
“The talk about freezing tax revenues belonging to the
Palestinian Authority is a provocation and theft of our money,” Rudaineh said.
“We call on the Quartet and the US administration to put an end to these
practices, which will have a negative impact on the whole region.
Inner Cabinet’s measures were a direct response to the PA’s continued pursuit of
unilateral statehood in favor of a negotiated agreement with Israel.
issued the punitive steps just one day after the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) accepted the Palestinian
Authority’s bid to become its 195th member. The PA also plans to request
membership in other UN agencies.
construction has been a hot-button issue for the Palestinians, who have insisted
that such building is a stumbling block to peace and that they will not talk
with Israel unless it freezes such activity.
Israel has refused to heed
this demand. Despite this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has a poor record
of authorizing settler construction and Jewish building in east
It is unusual for his office – which placed a 10-month
moratorium on new settlement building that ended in September 2010 and which has
often been accused of imposing a “silent freeze” on Jewish building over the
pre- 1967 line – to state upfront that it was “accelerating” such construction.
You cannot demand from the Israeli public continued restraint when the
Palestinian leadership continues to slam doors in their face,” said an Israeli
“They refuse to condemn the rocket attacks that killed an
Israeli citizen [on Saturday].
They praised the kidnapping of Gilad
Schalit and have refused to conduct peace negotiations while going for
unilateral moves at the United Nations,” the official said.
approvals include 1,650 units in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods, 327 in two
West Bank settlements, 277 in Efrat and 50 in Ma’aleh Adumim. All units were
already in the planning stages but needed final approvals.
to an Israeli official, “they have been given a green light.” The official noted
that all the building would occur in areas that would remain part of Israel in
any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
Separate from the issue
of construction, the Inner Cabinet agreed to put a “temporary hold” on the
transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority. It also contemplated
canceling VIP passes for Palestinian officials which allow them to pass quickly
through Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.
No decision was reached on
whether Israel would make its annual payment of $2 million to UNESCO.
Monday, the United States said that it would freeze a $60 million payment to
UNESCO scheduled for later this month.
During a tour of the West Bank
city of Hebron earlier in the day, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said
that it would be “strange” to continue to provide the organization with funds
when the US has frozen financial support for UNESCO.
But, he said, UNESCO
didn’t initiate the Palestinian membership drive. So the primary response should
be against those who instigated it, the PA under Abbas’s leadership.
such, Steinitz said, he had supported withholding tax funds from the Palestinian
Authority since the PA began its clear unilateral pursuit of
“For the last half a year, there has been a Palestinian
strategy to make use of their automatic majority in international bodies to gain
a state without peace, without security, without ending the conflict and without
recognizing the State of Israel,” he said.
“It is a betrayal of the very
heart of the peace process. It can not pass silently.”
Steinitz said he
rejects claims that withholding funds could cause the collapse of the PA. In the
past, under the governments of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, the funds were frozen
and the PA continued, albeit with difficulty.
“No one wants to dismantle
the PA,” Steinitz said. "Netanyahu’s government wants to make peace with
“But if it plans to be a state that will be in conflict with Israel,
I am not sure that our first interest is to preserve a PA government that could
become a hostile state like Gaza,” he said.