Netanyahu and top ministers decide to impose sanctions on Palestinian Authority after it was accepted to UN cultural body; 2,000 housing units to be built in major West Bank settlements, transfer of tax money to PA halted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his forum of eight senior ministers decided Tuesday to initiate a new wave of settlement construction in the West Bank, as part of a wider set of sanctions Israel is planning to impose on the Palestinian Authority after it was accepted to UNESCO as a member on Monday.
Netanyahu’s office instructed Tuesday that the construction of 2,000 housing units planned in East Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, and Ma’aleh Adumim should be expedited.
|A Palestinian working at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, March, 13, 2011.|
“All of the mentioned areas are ones that would remain in Israeli control under any future peace agreement,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
The eight ministers also decided to suspend the transfer of tax money which Israel has collected for the Palestinian Authority in October. The money, which amounts to more than NIS 300 million, was supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority before the Eid al-Adha holiday, when the money is used to pay the salaries of policemen and clerks of the Palestinian Authority.
During Tuesday’s discussion, an argument erupted between Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak about whether to permanently halt the transfer of tax money to the PA. Barak maintained that halting the tax money transfer will jeopardize the future of the security coordination with the Palestinians in the West Bank, while Steinitz supported the move.
Moreover, the eight ministers also decided not to allow UNESCO missions into Israel, and to examine the possibility of revoking the VIP status of senior Palestinian officials which allows them to pass through checkpoints.
On Monday, UNESCO accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full member of the organization.
In response, the U.S. decided to cut off funding to the UN cultural body. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that since the vote triggered a long-standing congressional restriction on funding to UN bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.
Following the vote on Palestinian membership, Israel also warned it will now reconsider its cooperation with UNESCO.
UNESCO is the first UN agency that the Palestinians sought to join as a full member since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on Sept. 23.
The motion to admit the Palestinians was passed at a UNESCO meeting in Paris, with 107 votes in favor, 14 against and 52 abstentions.
The United States, Canada and Germany voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain abstained.
(www.haaretz.com / 01.11.2011)