Israel imposes sanctions on Palestinian Authority

Move follows UN decision to seek legal opinion over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories

Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank on Friday. Photograph: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Getty

Israel has imposed a series of sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in response to last week’s decision by the United Nations to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, a move initiated by the Palestinian Authority.

The measures include freezing Palestinian construction in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank; withholding tax money; penalising Palestinian officials; and taking steps against non-government groups Israel claims are involved in hostile acts.

Some 139 million shekels (€37 million) in tax revenues that Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf will be seized and transferred to the families of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks.

Israel will also deduct from tax revenues the amount the Palestinian Authority paid to jailed or deceased Palestinian militants and their families last year – a policy Israel terms “pay to slay”.


VIP benefits of Palestinian Authority officials involved in the effort to sanction Israel at the UN and other international arenas will also be withheld – such as the right to pass through army roadblocks.

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The decision, announced on Friday, was taken during the inaugural meeting of the security cabinet, following the swearing in of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government last week.

“The present government will not accept the Palestinian Authority’s political and legal war against Israel with open arms, and will respond as necessary,” a government statement said.

The Palestinian Authority said the sanctions would not deter it from continuing the struggle and the political, diplomatic and legal action to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

“These measures are a reflection of the Netanyahu government’s racist colonial platform against our people, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power and a persistence in Israel’s rebellion against international law and signed agreements,” a statement from the Palestinian foreign ministry said.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee, described the Israeli sanctions as “theft”.

He said: “We demand that the international community act to force the Israeli government to release the billions of shekels that were looted from the Palestinians’ funds.”

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Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen defended the punitive measures. “The Palestinian Authority is not interested in a solution, nor is it interested in a real improvement of the situation of the Palestinians. All they care about is harming Israel.”

The move represents another indication that the new right-wing Israeli government is taking a hardline approach towards president Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

The previous government, led by Yair Lapid, and before him Naftali Bennett, kept lines of communication open to Ramallah via defence minister Benny Gantz, fearing that a weak Palestinian Authority could lead to Hamas seizing control of Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Most of the new ministers in the new government consider Mr Abbas an enemy who supports terror.

“Whoever operates against us will pay a heavy price, and this is just the beginning,” said finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionist party.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem