Israel Revokes Palestinian Foreign Minister's Travel Permit After Meeting With ICC Prosecutor

Palestinian Foreign Minister al-Malki met with ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Thursday, and had his permit revoked at the border upon his return to the West Bank Sunday

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File photo: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki at the opening of an emergency meeting amongst the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.
File photo: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki at the opening of an emergency meeting amongst the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.Credit: REUTERS

Israel revoked on Sunday Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki's VIP permit, which allows him free movement across the borders between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, upon his return to the West Bank from a meeting at the International Criminal Court.

Senior Israeli officials said that the move comes amid al-Malki's actions to advance the International Criminal Court's probe into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories, which the ICC decided to open this month. Al-Malki met on Thursday with ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, when they discussed advancing the investigation.

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The officials added that the move was approved in line with "the policy of the prime minister."

Al-Malki and his aides were reportedly detained at the Allenby Bridge crossing on the Israel-Jordan border, and the Shin Bet ordered the revoking of al-Malki's permit.

Al-Malki and his aides did eventually enter the West Bank after a thorough security check.

This is the first time that Israel has sanctioned a senior Palestinian official since the ICC announced its decision to open the probe against Israel and Hamas.   

According to Palestinian media reports, Israel cancelled coordination regarding al-Malki's arrival, as is customary when senior officials arrive at a checkpoint.

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The Palestinian Authority views this incident as a retaliatory act and a threat following the ICC's decision. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has yet to respond to the decision.

Spokespeople for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

"This is the Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine. He doesn't represent himself. He represents the State of Palestine, and we regard this as an attack against the State of Palestine," said Ahmed al-Deek, an official at al-Malki's office.

Earlier this month ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced she would formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, a move welcomed by the Palestinian Authority and denounced by Israel. 

ICC prosecutors said Friday they have sent Israel and the Palestinians notifications of the opening of a war crimes probe, a move that leaves the parties with one month to seek a deferral.

Bensouda said in December 2019 that war crimes had been or were being committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She named both the Israeli military and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.

Israeli officials argue that the ICC has no jurisdiction because Israel carries out its own investigations, including into what the Israeli military says were "exceptional incidents" during the 2014 war in Gaza between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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