Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has defended the sanctions his government recently imposed on the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Speaking in Jerusalem at a meeting on Thursday with visiting US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Mr Netanyahu said “the latest moves by the Palestinians in the international arena are an attack on Israel and obligate us to respond”.
The administration of US president Joe Biden has condemned Ramallah’s successful effort at the United Nations to have the International Court of Justice in The Hague examine Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank, but it also criticised the sanctions Israel imposed in response.
Among the retaliatory measures approved by Israel were the seizing of tax revenues – amounting to the equivalent of €36 million – that Israel collects on behalf of the PA, for transfer to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks; freezing Palestinian construction in much of the West Bank; and cancelling some Palestinian VIP benefits.
Mr Sullivan’s visit came after US officials expressed concern over the appointment of far-right ministers in Mr Netanyahu’s new coalition with considerable influence over West Bank policies, while saying they would judge the government by its policies and not on personalities.
“I’ve known President Biden for 40 years as a great friend of Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said.
Mr Sullivan told Mr Netanyahu that Mr Biden’s “commitment to the state of Israel is bone deep” and “rooted in shared history, shared interests and shared values”.
Efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear programme and what Israel terms Tehran’s “destabilising activities in the region” were also discussed and Mr Sullivan said Mr Biden was committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
A statement from the prime minister’s office said Mr Netanyahu and Mr Sullivan also discussed “the next steps to deepen the Abraham Accords and widen the circle of peace, with an emphasis on a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia”.
Mr Netanyahu wants to establish diplomatic relations with Riyadh after normalisation pacts signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, but Saudi Arabia has linked any such move to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud urged Israel’s new government to engage seriously on resolving the conflict.
Mr Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart also held a virtual meeting with the national security advisers of Bahrain and United Arab Emirates to discuss ways to deepen regional co-operation.
On Friday, Mr Sullivan will travel to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
Ahead of the visit Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the US to take serious steps to preserve the two-state solution.
He said putting an end to the unilateral Israeli measures and recognising the state of Palestine were key to achieving a just peace.
“Israel puts obstacles in front of us and deprives us of exploiting our potential and our natural resources,” he said. “Israel no longer adheres to and respects the agreements signed with it.”