Israel responds to UN bid with settlements, withholding taxes
Sunday, 02 December 2012 16:12 Sergio Yahni, Alternative Information Center (AIC)
The Israeli government continues to punish Palestinians over the (successful) UN bid last Thursday to gain non-member observer status for Palestine. Israel decided on Friday November 30 to approve construction of an additional 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In addition, the planning procedures of thousands of additional housing units in East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs will be moved forward, including in the segment connecting Ma'ale Adumim with Jerusalem, known as the E1 project.
EI is the land connecting East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim (Map: Passia)
On Sunday, November 2, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz stated during the government cabinet meeting that he would not transfer the tax payments collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority this month.
The finance minister said, "I have no intention of transferring the tax payments to the PA this month. I plan to use them to offset the Palestinian debt to the Israel Electric Corporation." Steinitz referred to the Palestinian UN bid as a "provocation and an attempt to further a state without recognizing Israel, demilitarization or any security arrangements.
Israeli officials said the government was considering further moves in response to the United Nations General Assembly recognition of Palestine as an observer state. The cabinet also unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the UN decision to upgrade the Palestinians to non-member observer status.
"The Jewish people have natural, historical and legal rights to its homeland with its eternal capital Jerusalem," the resolution stated. "The State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people has rights and claims to areas are under dispute in the land of Israel."
At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that "the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel forces us to reinforce and speed up the implementation of the settlement plans in all the areas the government has decided to settle in. These are not my words, but the words of the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1975 following the UN resolution that compared Zionism to racism."
Netanyahu also declared that “there will be no Palestinian state without an agreement guaranteeing the security of Israel's citizens, there will be no Palestinian state before the State of Israel is recognized as the Jewish people's state, and there will be no Palestinian state before the Palestinians declare the end of the conflict."
The cabinet decision says that the UN resolution does not change the status of disputed areas and does not detract in any way from Israel and the Jewish people's right to those areas. Furthermore, the government decision noted that the UN resolution will not be a basis for future negotiations.
Israeli cabinet decisions were widely criticized by the international community.
According to the New York Times, Israel gave the United States only a few hours notice of its decision to approve building new housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory. The newspaper adds that US officials said US President Barack Obama did not call Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following notice of the plan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the plans for more settlement construction and called on Jerusalem to bolster the Palestinian Authority, even as she disagreed with the Palestinian decision to seek unilateral recognition at the UN.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, condemned on Sunday plans to push forward construction in the E1 area. "The European Union has repeatedly stated that all settlement construction is illegal under international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace," a statement from Ashton said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the plan and called on Israel to reverse the decision. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” Hague said in a statement.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also condemned Israel’s new construction plans, claiming that "the new colonization zone could drain the confidence needed for a return to dialogue." Fabius also called upon Israeli authorities to abstain from any further decision in this direction and to manifest their desire to restart negotiations.