Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has warned that Israeli sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) “will promptly lead to its collapse”.
Mr Shtayyeh was referring to the retaliatory sanctions Israel imposed over the weekend on the PA in response to the Palestinian request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Defending the Palestinians’ “right to complain” in an interview with the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, he warned that confiscating tax money Israel collects on behalf of the PA to transfer to families of Israeli victims of militant attacks marks “another nail in the Palestinian Authority’s coffin, unless there is immediate intervention by the international community, namely the administration in Washington and Arab countries”.
Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich signed the measure to transfer 139 million shekels (€37m) in tax revenue from the PA on Sunday.
Mr Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionist party, seemed unconcerned over the implications for the Ramallah-based PA headed by president Mahmoud Abbas.
“As long as the Palestinian Authority encourages terror and is an enemy I have no interest for it to continue to exist,” he said. “If the PA operates according to agreements, takes care of civilian life and thwarts terror activities in co-operation with Israel’s security establishment, then of course it is possible to have relations with the authority.”
In a separate move Israeli national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, has ordered the police to remove any Palestinian flags flown in public spaces. “It is inconceivable that lawbreakers will wave terror flags, incite and encourage terrorism,” Mr Ben-Gvir said. “I have issued instructions for the removal of the flags which support terrorism from the public space and to stop incitement.”
The order was issued after a long-serving security prisoner, convicted of killing an Israeli soldier in 1983, waved a Palestinian flag while receiving a hero’s welcome in his home village in northern Israel after his release last week.
Arabs in Israel account for around a fifth of the population and most are descendants of Palestinians who remained within the newly-founded state after its 1948 war of independence.
Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition, made up entirely of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, is also fast-tracking a bill to deport Israeli Arabs who have been convicted of carrying out armed attacks. Under the measure it will be possible to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs and deport them to the PA after they have served their prison sentence if they received payment from the PA, a policy dubbed by Israel “pay to slay”.
Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli Arab parliamentarian from the opposition Hadash-Ta’al party, said this was a populist bill that targeted only Arabs. “Does anyone imagine revoking the citizenship of the Jewish murderer of [assassinated prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin? Even if you are a serial killer you can keep your citizenship as long as you are Jewish.”