Israel suspended on Sunday a pass that eased the Palestinian foreign minister’s travel in and around the occupied West Bank, as part of its response to Palestinian efforts to involve the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the conflict.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing security cabinet on Friday announced a series of steps, which also included using Palestinian money to compensate victims of Palestinian militant attacks and imposing a moratorium on Palestinian construction in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel collects tax money on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli border staff confiscated Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s “VIP” travel card as he crossed from Jordan into the occupied West Bank, his office said. A spokesperson for Israel’s Defence Ministry, which administers the West Bank, confirmed the move, calling it part of the implementation of Friday’s government decision.
In televised remarks to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said the decision entailed, among other measures, “sanctions against senior Palestinian figures”. “The Palestinian Authority has promoted an extremist anti-Israeli resolution at the United Nations,” Netanyahu said.
The U.N. General Assembly, responding to an appeal by the Palestinians, on Dec. 30 asked the ICJ for an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. On Saturday, Israel’s Defence Ministry said the VIP cards of three other senior Palestinian officials had been revoked in response to them visiting a member of Israel’s Arab minority who had been imprisoned for killing an Israeli soldier.
Issued under interim accords with Israel from the 1990s, the cards ease travel across the Israeli-controlled West Bank border with Jordan and from Palestinian-ruled territory into Israel. “The foreign minister will continue his job and his diplomatic activities with or without the card,” Ahmed Al-Deek, an aide to Maliki, told Reuters.
Israel had confiscated Maliki’s VIP card in 2021 after he returned from a meeting of the International Criminal Court. It was not immediately clear when and why the card had been restored. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, during a briefing with reporters, said he approved the distribution of roughly 139 million shekels ($40 million) of frozen Palestinian funds to victims of Palestinian attacks.
“There is no justice greater than deducting money from the (Palestinian) Authority that worked to support terrorism and transferring it to the families of victims of terrorism,” he said. Palestinian officials have condemned the Israeli measures and said they will continue trying to gain support abroad.
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