Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Israel would not sit with “folded arms” as the Palestinians continue to challenge Israel diplomatically, while they threaten to dissolve the PA and pledge to continue their statehood bid at the United Nations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said during a cultural event in Ramallah on Sunday that “we will go back to the Security Council until it recognizes our rights. We are determined to join international conventions and treaties despite the pressure.”
A Palestinian bid to pass a UN Security Council resolution calling for a full IDF withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within three years failed last week, when the Palestinians fell one vote short of the nine votes needed for the resolution to be adopted.
Even if it had received the necessary nine votes, the US made clear that it would have vetoed the measure.
On January 1, however, the composition of the Security Council changed and tilted in the Palestinians’ favor with Venezuela and Malaysia, neither of which has diplomatic ties with Israel, joining the 15-member council.
Abbas said the Palestinians remain committed to a “just and comprehensive peace that would end the occupation and lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
He said that there would be no security or stability in the region without Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state.
“We did not fail at the Security Council,” Abbas said. “Rather, it’s the Security Council that failed. That’s why we decided to join 20 international conventions and treaties, including the International Criminal Court. And we will continue with our efforts.”
In response to the Palestinian effort to join the International Criminal Court, Israel froze the transfer of some NIS 500 million in tax payments that was to be paid to the Palestinian Authority at the beginning of the month.
This was one of the decisions that came out of an urgent interministerial meeting Netanyahu convened on Thursday. Other steps are expected in the coming days, with other moves likely to be brought to the security cabinet his week for approval.
Netanyahu, in his first response to the Palestinian application to the ICC, said at the outset of Sunday’s cabinet meeting that the Palestinians had opted for a path of confrontation and Israel could not be expected to sit idly by.
“We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague,” he said. “It is the Palestinian Authority leaders – who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas – who must be called to account. The soldiers of the IDF will continue to defend the State of Israel with strength and determination.
And just as they defend us, we will defend them with the same strength and determination.”
Beyond the freeze of the tax transfers, Netanyahu has not given any indication of what other move Israel would take in response.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat hinted after the decision to freeze the transfer of the tax funds that the Palestinians might dissolve the PA and call on Israel to fully assume its responsibilities over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ironically, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz threatened the past month that Israel might disband the PA if their UN Security Council resolution passed.
In an interview with YNET, Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership would meet soon to discuss calling on Netanyahu “to come and assume his responsibilities on the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Referring to the Israeli decision to withhold tax funds belonging to the Palestinian Authority, Erekat said: “Netanyahu is destroying the Palestinian Authority. What authority did he leave? The Israeli people don’t see us anymore and that’s the problem.”
Erekat claimed that the Israeli government has canceled the PA ’s political, legal, economic, security, and territorial jurisdiction over Palestinian territories.
“We are an authority by name,” he said.
“We are not going to dissolve the Palestinian Authority; actually Mr. Netanyahu managed to destroy the authority. That’s what he’s been planning since he came to office – to destroy the Palestinian Authority and to resume his occupying power as he was before 1992.”
Erekat warned that Israel was committing “war crimes” by withholding the tax funds and continuing with its policy of settlement activities, house demolitions, deportations, and land confiscations. He said the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN Security Council and the decision to join the International Criminal Court were “peaceful actions.”
The Israeli government, Erekat added, has left the Palestinians with no other option.
“They are the masters of unilateral steps,” he said. “What do you call settlement activity? What do you call the home demolitions? What do you call land confiscation? What do you call an authority without an authority? Netanyahu wants the occupation to be cost-free. You will find yourselves fully responsible, as was the case before 1992. So your children will be running after my children in Jericho and Bethlehem and Hebron.
That’s what Netanyahu wants and congratulations.
He will get it.”
Erekat said that the Palestinians’ next step would be to expedite its work with the ICC.
“We will work with the International Federation of Lawyers to see what can be done to protect the daily lives of Palestinians,” he said.
Erekat said that the decision to freeze the tax funds was a “collective punishment that would stop the work of Palestinian hospitals and schools.”