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Israel to sanction Palestinian Authority after UN vote

January 6, 2023

The UN General Assembly has backed a Palestinian request to have the ICJ probe the occupation of the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government said Israel would "respond as necessary."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced new sanctions targeting Palestinian leaders and funds for the PAImage: Atef Safadi/AFP

Israel's Security Cabinet approved several retaliatory steps against Palestinian leadership, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Friday. 

The measures against the Palestinian Authority come after it requested the United Nations' highest judicial body, the International Court of Justice, to deliver an expert opinion on Israel's occupation of the West Bank. The UN General Assembly voted to support the PA's request on December 30. 

What is included in the sanctions? 

The prime minister's office announced the sanctions against the PA in a statement posted on Facebook. 

The Israeli government's response to the PA was made "in response to its appeal to the International Court of Justice," the statement read. 

The government described the appeal as a "decision to wage political and legal war against the state of Israel" and said it "will respond as necessary." 

Under the measures, Israel would use 139 million shekels ($39.6 million, €37.3 million) from PA funds to compensate the families of victims of Palestinian militant attacks. Israel collects tax money on behalf of the PA. 

The sanctions also include a freeze on Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The area is under full Israeli control. 

Top Palestinian officials are also targeted by the measures, with the Israeli government saying it would deny benefits to "VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel." 

Top officials within the PA currently receive permits that allow them to travel more easily in and out of the occupied West Bank. 

The Israeli government also said it would take "action" against organizations that "promote terrorist activity or any hostile activity" — including those that operate "under the guise of humanitarian work." 

The statement did not provide further details on which organizations face potential action. Last summer, Israeli authorities shuttered the offices of six Palestinian rights watchdog groups after the government designated them as terrorist organizations — drawing international criticism. 

How have Palestinian officials responded? 

The PA "condemned and rejected" the measures outlined by the Israeli government. 

In a statement on the PA's Foreign Ministry Twitter account, Palestinian officials called on US President Joe Biden's administration to intervene to stop the implementation of the measures. 

"These decisions are condemned and rejected both in relation to money and other measures they are planning," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas. 

The funds that Israel is threatening to withhold from the cash-strapped PA threaten to worsen the body's financial troubles. 

Tensions over settlements in West Bank 

Netanyahu's Cabinet, which was sworn in last Thursday, is Israel's most far-right government to date. 

The new coalition has said it would prioritize expanding settlements in the disputed regions of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are classified by the International Court of Justice and the United Nations as illegal under international law. 

An assessment by the European Union representative for the West Bank and Gaza Strip found that settlers made up around 14% of the West Bank population at the end of 2020. The most recent data for 2021 shows "an even higher rate of settlement units advancements" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the body said. 

rs/aw (dpa, AP, Reuters)

Correction: A video previously embedded in this article incorrectly stated that before Itamar Ben-Gvir's Tuesday visit, the last time an Israeli government minister visited Temple Mount was in the year 2000. The last visit from a high-ranking Israeli government minister was Gilad Erdan, Minister for Public Security in 2017. In 2018 the Minister of Agriculture visited the Temple Mount.