Netanyahu Preparing Harsh Response to Palestinians - but Not Settlement Construction

Israel going from defense to attack mode, Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben Sheetrit tells Israeli envoys to Europe.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud press conference, January 1, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud press conference, January 1, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing a harsh response to the Palestinian moves at the International Criminal Court in The Hague but clarified late last week that it will not include a declaration of settlement construction, Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben Sheetrit told Israel's envoys to Europe at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday.

In November 2012, after the Palestinian Authority's status at the United Nations General Assembly was upgraded to non-member observer state, Netanyahu ordered a wave of settlement construction to the tune of thousands of housing units and the advancement of plans for the Mevasseret Adumim neighborhood in the E-1 corridor between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.

Israel met severe international criticism in the wake of that decision. A senior Israeli official said Sunday morning that the lesson had been learned and that the government had no desire to return to any processes that would focus international criticism on Israel instead of the Palestinian bid at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Nissim Ben Sheetrit emphasized to the envoys that Israel's response would be much harsher and more comprehensive than freezing the Palestinian Authority's tax revenues. In the wake of the Palestinian bid, "Israel is about to switch from defense to attack [mode]," said Ben Sheetrit.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority has chosen to initiate a confrontation with Israel.

"We will not sit idly by," Netanyahu said. "We will not allow Israeli soldiers and officers to be dragged to The Hague. The Palestinian Authority's leaders, who forged an alliance with Hamas war criminals, are the ones who should be punished."

More than 30 Israeli ambassadors serving in European countries were attending the conference, which runs until Wednesday evening. Ben Sheetrit told the envoys that Israel had even considered calling off the conference and returning the ambassadors to their European stations in order to begin diplomatic moves against the Palestinians. The conference may still be shortened by a day or two, he said.

Despite Israel's harsh response, it has no desire to cease security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority or to bring about its demise.

Earlier at the conference, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the delegates that the Palestinians' attempt to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague "demonstrates that the Oslo Accords have failed."

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