News / Middle East

Netanyahu Orders Cutback in Contacts with Palestinian Authority

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.
Reuters
Israel announced on Wednesday a partial freeze in high-level contacts with the Palestinians and also threatened economic steps after they signed international conventions, deepening a crisis menacing U.S.-brokered peace talks.
 
Israeli government officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered cabinet members, directors-general of government ministries and other senior officials not to meet their counterparts in the Palestinian Authority.
 
A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, said Israeli-Palestinian ministerial meetings were rare but voiced concern about the possibility of Israeli economic sanctions.
 
The order does not apply to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief peace negotiator, or to defense and security officials, they said. A U.S. mediator has held a series of meetings over the past week to try to push the troubled talks past an original April 29 deadline for a deal.
 
"This decision undermines all international efforts ... to revive the negotiations, to proceed with a constructive solution to the challenges facing the peace process," said PA spokesman Ehab Bseiso.
 
An Israeli official said Netanyahu had issued the order in response to "the Palestinians' grave violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace talks" - a reference to the signing of 15 international agreements last week.
 
The ban was imposed just hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Israel's announcement on April 1 of plans to build about 700 housing units in East Jerusalem was the immediate cause of talks plunging into crisis.
 
Kerry's comments in testimony to Congress on Tuesday raised eyebrows in Netanyahu's governing coalition. "To accuse us of causing this? I think he's wrong," Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told Israel Radio.
 
At his Congressional appearance, Kerry said both sides had taken "unhelpful" steps in recent days and that he hoped they would find a way to resume serious negotiations, noting they had held a lengthy meeting on Monday.
 
An Israeli official told Reuters Israel had taken what he called "very modest steps" after the conventions were signed. "If they [the Palestinians] continue on this path, we have other options," the official added.
 
Additional sanctions weighed
 
Another punitive Israeli step under "serious consideration" was to deduct up to $75 million in tax revenue transfers to the Palestinians, the Israeli official said.
 
Citing Palestinian figures, Israel estimates this is the sum of annual Palestinian aid provided to their prisoners in Israeli jails convicted of violence, including lethal attacks.
 
Under interim peace deals, Israel collects and transfers to the PA some $100 million a month in taxes on goods imported into the Palestinian territories. Israel has previously frozen the payments during times of heightened tensions.
 
Palestinian officials said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had signed the international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions covering the conduct of war and occupation, in response to Israel's failure to carry out a promised release
of several dozen Palestinian prisoners a few days earlier.
 
Palestinians were further angered by the subsequent announcement on settlements.
 
At a cabinet session on Sunday, Netanyahu pledged to retaliate for Abbas's move, which Israel sees as a unilateral step toward statehood and an attempt to gain leverage over it.

When the peace talks restarted last July, Israel had conditioned freedom for the fourth and last group of the 104 prisoners it had pledged to release on a Palestinian commitment to extend the negotiations beyond April.
 
It said the tender to build new houses in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state, had been issued last year and was resubmitted because there had been no initial takers.
 
Palestinians fear settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, could deny them a viable state. Most countries consider the settlements illegal. Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and Jerusalem and says it intends to keep major settlement blocs in any future peace deal.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs