Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to the cabinet, April 6, 2014..
(photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday instructed all government ministries to cease civilian and economic cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the crisis in negotiations between Israel and the PA.
An Israeli government official said that in response to "Palestinian violations," Israeli government ministers were directed to refrain from meeting their Palestinian Authority counterparts.
The order did not include Defense Ministry cooperation with the Palestinians or Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's meetings with Palestinian negotiators.
The edict was part of Israel's response to what one official called the "Palestinian's grave violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace talks", an apparent reference to their signing of 15 international conventions last week amid a deep crisis in the US-brokered negotiations.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said Netanyahu is "giving fuel and matches to those who hate Israel.
"It's not clear what good will come from this unnecessary step of disconnecting from the Palestinian Authority," he added. "At the same time, it's clear what damage will come of it. It will hurt our interests and those of businesses."
Herzog posited that Netanyahu is starting to disengage Israel from the world, an act rooted in frustration and desperation.
According to MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), "Netanyahu is confirming that he killed the diplomatic process after making the talks explode, when he didn't give them a real chance in the first place. He's destroying what's left."
Horowitz said that ceasing ties with the Palestinian Authority will mostly hurt Israel and is an irresponsible and dangerous act.
"This brings up the question: What are [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid and [Justice Minister Tzipi] Livni doing in a government that behaves this way," he stated.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) supported the move, saying the Palestinians need negotiations more than Israel does.
"It's a serious mistake to think that we need to pay a price just so people will talk to us. I commend the prime minister for his decision to respond with determination to the Palestinian Authority's provocations," Slomiansky said.
The move came after Netanyahu earlier this week issued a stern warning
to the Palestinians about their application to join the international treaties and any future steps the PA might take outside the negotiating process to shore up legal standing as a state.
“Unilateral steps on [the Palestinians’] part will be met with unilateral steps on our part," Netanyahu warned Sunday.
Palestinian Authority President Mahomud Abbas was expected to appeal at an Arab League meeting
in Cairo on Wednesday for political and economic support in the event of Israeli punitive measures.
Looking ahead to possible Israeli economic sanctions, PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Tuesday that at the Arab League session, Abbas would voice concern Israel might again withhold tax revenues it transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Interim peace deals task Israel with collecting taxes and customs duties for the PA amounting to around $100 million a month, on goods imported into the Palestinian territories. Israel has previously frozen the payments during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions.
The US-brokered negotiations, which began in July, plunged into crisis last week after Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal, failed to carry out a promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.
Abbas responded by signing the 15 global treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, on behalf of the State of Palestine, a defiant move that surprised Washington and angered Israel.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended another US-mediated session on Tuesday with no sign of a breakthrough in efforts to save peace talks from collapse, but an Israeli official said they had agreed to meet again.JPost.com staff contributed to this report.