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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid