Israel Cuts Communication With Palestinians in Response to Unilateral Moves

Netanyahu orders cabinet ministers not to cooperate with Palestinian counterparts, after Abbas' request to join international conventions.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, should take Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's condolences over the Holocaut at face value.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, should take Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's condolences over the Holocaut at face value.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israel has decided to continue to impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in response to President Mahmoud Abbas' request to join 15 international conventions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered all government ministries on Wednesday morning to halt cooperation with Palestinian entities, with a particular emphasis on meetings between Israeli ministers and their Palestinian counterparts.

A senior Israeli official said that the ministers were updated by telephone over the course of the morning by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit, who ordered communication stymied with Palestinian officials including ministers and director generals in response to the Palestinian unilateral actions. Only low-level field cooperation will be permitted, according to the Israeli official.

Labor Chairman and opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed the government over its decision, accusing it of adding fuel to the fire. "The prime minister is handing petrol and flammable materials to the last of Israel's haters," said Herzog.

"It's not clear what good will come of this superfluous move of cutting off relations with the Palestinian Authority," he added. "In fact, it's quite clear what damage will come of this step. It will harm the interests of the state of Israel and its economic sector."

"The prime minister has begun a process of disengagement between Israel and the world. This is the result of frustration and helplessness, and the prime minister of Israel's lack of ability to operate within a plan and reach any sort of achievement in that realm. Frustration and helplessness are not diplomatic policy," he said.

Environment Minister Amir Peres sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday, asking him to convene the cabinet before deciding to cut links between Israeli ministries and their Palestinian counterparts.

"In my view, the damage [that could be caused by] the decision is greater than the benefits," Peretz wrote. "We are obliged, despite the difficulties, to return to the path that will lead to two states for two people, as you have announced on several occasions."

"I know that the Palestinians bear a good part of the responsibility for the deterioration of the situation, but a search after the guilty will not promote our desire to arrive at a solution."

Netanyahu issued his order just hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry placed most of the blame on Israel for the recent crisis in peace talks during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Kerry said that the United States intends on continuing its efforts to promote a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, but "in the end the parties are going to have to make that decision."

Kerry implied that Israel is mostly responsible for the crisis in talks and described the Palestinian application to United Nations institutions as a response to Israeli moves.

"Both sides, whether advertently or inadvertently, wound up in positions where things happened that were unhelpful," he said, and went on to explain how the current crisis was created. "Clearly, going to these treaties is not helpful, and we have made that crystal-clear," he said.

"Unfortunately, prisoners were not released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day one went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment. We find ourselves where we are."

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