Nations express 'deep concern' at Israeli punitive measures

AP , Tuesday 17 Jan 2023

More than 90 countries have expressed "deep concern'' at Israel's punitive measures against the Palestinian people, leadership, and civil society following a U.N. resolution requesting an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the legality of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

A blast from an Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City throws dust and debris
FILE PHOTO: A blast from an Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City throws dust and debris on May 13, 2021, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish violence raged across Israel at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. AP


The signatories called for a reversal of the Israeli measures, saying regardless of their position on the General Assembly's resolution, "we reject punitive measures in response to a request for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice".

The 193-member General Assembly voted 87-26 with 53 abstentions on Dec. 30 in favor of the resolution which was promoted by the Palestinians and opposed vehemently by Israel. Even though rulings by the International Court of Justice are not legally binding, they can be influential on world opinion.

In retaliation, Israel's new hard-line government announced on January 6, a series of sanctions, including financial ones, against the Palestinian Authority to make it "pay the price" for pushing for the resolution.

The government's Security Cabinet decided to withhold $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transferring the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of attacks.

It also decided to deduct the amount of revenue Israel typically transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority by a sum equal to the amount paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict. The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary for social welfare.

The Security Cabinet also targeted Palestinian officials directly, saying it would deny benefits to "VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel". The first Palestinian affected was Foreign Minister Riad Malki who said in a statement on Jan. 8 that he was returning from the Brazilian president's inauguration when he was informed that Israel rescinded his VIP travel permit, which allows top Palestinian officials to travel more easily in and out of the occupied West Bank than ordinary Palestinians.

The statement released late Monday was signed by countries that voted for this resolution (Argentina, Belgium, Ireland, Pakistan, and South Africa, among others) along with the Arab nations and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 37 other countries _ 27 of them from Europe, and also by some that abstained -- Japan, France, and South Korea -- and others that voted against, like Germany and Estonia. 

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour welcomed the statement of support, telling The Associated Press that "we exercised our democratic rights to go to the General Assembly in a peaceful way, a legal way, and put a question to the ICJ to seek an advisory opinion".

"What is amazing about that statement", he said, is that it was signed by some countries that abstained or voted against the resolution referring the question to the court.

"But to punish people for going to the General Assembly in an adoption of a resolution is something else", Mansour said. "That's why they stood with us and opposed this policy of the Israeli government, and they are demanding a reversal of this decision".

He predicted more countries will support the statement when the Security Council holds its monthly meeting on the Middle East focusing on the Palestinian issue on Jan. 18.

A previous meeting this month, after the visit of an Israeli minister to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem, led to a tense verbal exchange between Israeli and Palestinian diplomats.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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