JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Sunday revoked the Palestinian foreign minister’s VIP travel permit, part of a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians that Israel’s new hard-line government announced days ago.
Riad Malki said in a statement that he was returning from the Brazilian president’s inauguration when he was informed that Israel rescinded his VIP travel permit, which allows top Palestinian officials to travel more easily in and out of the occupied West Bank than ordinary Palestinians. It was not clear whether the permits of other officials had been revoked as well.
Israel’s government on Friday approved the steps to penalize the Palestinians in retaliation for them pushing the U.N.’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the Israeli occupation. Rulings by the International Court of Justice are not binding, but they can be influential on world opinion.
The decision highlights the tough line the current government is already taking toward the Palestinians just days into its tenure. It comes at a time of spiking violence in the occupied West Bank and as peace talks are a distant memory.
In east Jerusalem, a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Israeli police said they broke up a meeting by Palestinian parents about their children’s education, claiming it was unlawfully funded by the Palestinian Authority. Police said the operation came at the behest of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts who now oversees the police.
The Palestinians condemned the revoking of Malki’s permit, saying Israel should be the one being “punished for its violations against international law.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday the measures against the Palestinians were aimed at what he called “an extreme anti-Israel” step at the U.N. Israel’s Defense Ministry confirmed that Malki’s permit had been revoked. Malki’s office said he was still permitted to travel like ordinary Palestinians, but had lost the VIP privileges that allow him to bypass lines and move quickly through Israeli checkpoints or through the West Bank’s crossing into Jordan.
On Friday, the government’s Security Cabinet decided Israel would withhold $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transfer the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks.
It also said Israel would further deduct revenue it typically transfers to the cash-strapped PA — a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including militants implicated in attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund incentivizes violence. Israel’s withheld funds threaten to exacerbate the PA’s fiscal woes.</…….