Jan 6, 2023 - World

Israel sanctions Palestinian Authority over push for ICJ opinion on occupation

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) chairs the first cabinet meeting of his new government in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the a cabinet meeting on Dec. 29. Photo:

The new Israeli government on Friday announced a series of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority over its latest push for the International Court of Justice to issue a legal opinion on the Israeli occupation.

Why it matters: Although some of the Israeli sanctions are only symbolic and others include immediate implementation of steps that were already in the works, Friday's move will likely further escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Catch up quick: The UN General Assembly last week approved a resolution that calls on the ICJ to issue a legal opinion on the consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

  • According to the resolution, the ICJ will draft an advisory opinion on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — a process that could take between one to two years.
  • The opinion should address the legal consequences of Israel's "occupation, settlement and annexation ... including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem," the resolution reads.
  • The opinion should also address the question of “how the policies and practices of Israel affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status."

Details: The Israeli Cabinet said on Friday it will transfer around $40 million from frozen Palestinian tax revenues Israel is holding to compensate families of victims killed in terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians.

  • Israel will also immediately deduct from Palestinian tax revenues around $150 million in payments made by the Palestinian Authority to Palestinian prisoners and their families in 2022 — a step that was supposed to take place in August.
  • Building permits for Palestinians in Area C of the occupied West Bank — where Israel has full control — will be frozen.
  • Israel will also deny VIP benefits to Palestinian officials who are involved in the diplomatic and legal campaign against Israel in the UN. Israel grants some Palestinian officials VIP passes that allow them to move freely between border crossings.
  • The Israeli cabinet stressed in its statement that action will be taken against Palestinian organizations “that promote terrorist activity or any hostile activity, including political and legal action against Israel under the guise of humanitarian work."

The other side: Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the PLO executive committee and minister for civilian affairs, said the Israeli measures will not "discourage us" from "pursuing [Israel's] government in international institutions and forums and exposing their policies against the Palestinians."

  • "We call on the international community to force the occupation government to release the billions of shekels that have been pirated," he added.

The big picture: The Israeli security cabinet convened on Thursday morning to discuss the Israeli retaliation to the Palestinian move at the UN.

  • The subject of the meeting was revealed unintentionally when the Prime Minister’s Office released by accident a photo from the meeting that showed a document about possible sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
  • On Thursday evening, the UN Security Council convened an emergency meeting about Israeli ultranationalist minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, which sparked widespread condemnation. Security Council members expressed concern during the meeting about the preservation of the status quo at the holy site.
  • During the meeting, the Palestinian ambassador warned of a Palestinian uprising and threatened that if the Security Council members don’t stop Israeli actions, the Palestinians will have to do it themselves.
  • Israeli officials were furious about the Palestinian ambassador’s threats and on Friday the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement detailing the Israeli sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
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