Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during the first cabinet meeting of the Palestinian unity government in Gaza (Photo: Reuters)
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that Tal Aviv could punish the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by “imprisoning” him in the West Bank after he signed a reconciliation agreement with the Hamas movement.
Liberman threatened the his government will prevent Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, from moving freely by canceling the “VIP visas” that Israeli confers upon Palestinian officials.
“We have at our disposal a vast arsenal of measures including the lifting of VIP status for Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Salam Fayyad, which will not allow them to move freely,” Lieberman said.
He added in an interview on Israeli radio that among the measures that could be imposed is a freeze on tax transfers the Israeli authority collects for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The options they are considering also extend beyond their borders.
“We will also exert pressure on the international donors to cut the fund directed to the Palestinian Authority to harm them economically,” he added.
Lieberman also hailed calls by some US congressmen to impose a ban on any financial aid transfer from America to the Palestinian Authority. The Egyptian-brokered deal has crossed an Israeli redline, Lieberman continued, and jeopardises the state’s national security as it could lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank.
“Hamas is viewed as a terrorist organisation, not only in the United States and European Union states, but also by the Quartet, and all of them must force the new government to renounce violence, recognize Israel and announce its commitment to the International agreement.”
The reconciliation deal calls for the formation of a single caretaker Palestinian government in the coming days.
The Palestinian factions were on the verge of agreeing a deal in 2009 that would have led to a transitional government ahead of elections when Hamas pulled out, saying the accord had been revised without its approval.