Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on January 8, 2023. RONEN ZVULUN / AP
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki was returning from a visit to Brazil on Sunday (January 8) when he was held up for thirty minutes at the Israeli border crossing with Jordan, the Palestinians’ only gateway to the West Bank. Jewish state customs officials then informed him that his VIP permit, which made it easier for him to enter and exit the country, had been revoked. The measure is part of a series of sanctions passed by Israel’s security cabinet against the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) last week.
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Binyamin Netanyahu’s government failed to recognize that on December 30, 2022, the Palestinians voted in favor of a resolution at the UN General Assembly calling on the International Court of Justice to examine the legality of the Israeli occupation. The non-binding text also demands that Israel end colonization in the occupied territories; it was accepted by 87 states – France abstained.
The PA resolved to “wage a political and legal war against the State of Israel. This government will not stand by,” the prime minister’s office replied in a statement released Jan. 6. He outlines several measures, including the withdrawal of VIP permits for certain Palestinian officials and a moratorium on already largely restricted Palestinian construction activities in Zone C, which makes up 60% of the West Bank.
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The Israeli Ministry of Finance will also take money from taxes and tariffs that Israel collects on behalf of the authorities in Ramallah, since the PA has no control over its borders. Around 139 million shekels (37 million euros) will be donated to fifteen Israeli families of victims of Palestinian attacks. In addition, the Jewish state was to reserve tens of millions of shekels — the exact amount was not specified — to be the equivalent of the subsidies the PA pays to Palestinian prisoners in Israel and their families.
These sanctions “are designed to bring down the agency [palestinienne]to push them to their limits financially and institutionally,” condemned Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh during the January 9 Ministerial Council. Hamas urged the PA “not to back down.” In fact, since 2019, Israel has regularly collected a portion of the taxes and tariffs it owes to the Palestinians. According to calculations by the Palestinian head of government, the Jewish state has withheld around 570 million dollars (531 million euros) for three years, a sum that is said to correspond to the amount of payments to the Palestinian prisoners.
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