Palestinian foreign minister says Israel revoked travel permits over UN move


The Palestinian foreign minister said on Sunday that Israel had revoked his travel permit, as part of a series of punitive measures against Palestinians that Israel’s new hardline government announced days ago.

Riad Malki said in a statement that he was returning from the inauguration of the Brazilian president when he was informed that Israel rescinded a travel permit for senior Palestinian officials that allows them to easily travel in and out of the occupied West Bank, unlike ordinary Palestinians.

Israel’s government on Friday approved steps to penalize Palestinians in retaliation for pressuring the UN’s highest judicial body to issue its opinion on the Israeli occupation.

The decision highlights the hard line that the current government is already taking towards the Palestinians just days into its term. It comes at a time of escalating violence in the occupied West Bank and when peace talks are a distant memory.

In east Jerusalem, a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Israeli police said they broke up a meeting of Palestinian parents on their children’s education, claiming it was illegally funded by the Palestinian Authority. Police said the operation came at the behest of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts who now oversees the police.

The Palestinians condemned the revocation of Malki’s permit, saying Israel should be the one «punished for its violations of international law.» Israeli authorities could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday that the moves were aimed at what he called an «extreme move against Israel» at the UN.

On Friday, the government’s Security Cabinet decided that Israel would withhold $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transfer the funds to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of attacks by Palestinian militants.

He also said Israel would further deduct the revenue it normally transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to the families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including those militants involved in attacks against Israelis.

The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social assistance, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund encourages violence. The funds withheld by Israel threaten to exacerbate the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal problems.

The Security Cabinet also took direct aim at Palestinian officials, saying it would deny benefits to «VIPs leading the political and legal war against Israel.»

Saturday’s police operation came days after Ben-Gvir took office. The police claimed that the parents’ meeting was funded by the Palestinian Authority and attended by Palestinian Authority activists, which he said violated Israeli law. Police said they prevented the meeting from taking place and that they were operating under an order from Ben-Gvir to shut it down. Police refused to provide any evidence to support his claim and a spokesman for Ben-Gvir referred questions to the police.

Ziad Shamali, head of the Jerusalem Student Parents’ Committees Union, which was organizing the meeting, denied any Palestinian Authority involvement, saying it was being held to discuss teacher shortages in East Jerusalem schools. He said he viewed the assertion of Palestinian Authority ties as «a political pretext to ban» the meeting.

The Palestinian Authority was created to administer Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel opposes any official business conducted by the Palestinian Authority in east Jerusalem, and police have in the past broken up events it claims were linked to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, a move not recognized by most of the international community. Israel regards the city as its undivided and eternal capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their longed-for state.

About a third of the city’s population is Palestinian and they have long faced neglect and discrimination at the hands of the Israeli authorities, including in education, housing and public services.

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