The Palestinian foreign minister says Israel has revoked his travel permit, part of a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians that Israel’s new hardline government announced days ago.
Riad al-Malki said in a statement on Sunday that he was returning from the Brazilian president’s inauguration when he was informed that Israel had rescinded his travel permit, which allows top Palestinian officials to travel easily in and out of the occupied West Bank, unlike ordinary Palestinians.
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A spokesperson for Israel’s defence ministry confirmed the move to the Reuters news agency, calling it part of the implementation of a government decision taken on Friday to penalise the Palestinians for pushing the United Nations’ highest judicial body to give its opinion on the Israeli occupation.
On Saturday, Israel said it had revoked entry permits for three senior officials from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party after they visited a Palestinian citizen of Israel recently released from prison.
Mahmud al-Alul, Azzam al-Ahmad and Rawhi Fattouh had visited Karim Younis in his home village of Ara in northern Israel following his release on Thursday after serving a 40-year sentence for killing an Israeli soldier.
“The three men took advantage of their status and entered Israel this morning [Saturday] to travel to the home of the terrorist Karim Younis,” the office of defence minister Yoav Galant said in a statement later on Saturday. Galant ordered their Israeli entry permits be revoked in response, it said.
The moves follow a decision on Friday by Israel’s security cabinet to withhold $39m in revenues from the Palestinian Authority and impose a moratorium on Palestinian construction projects in most of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that decision was in response to the UN General Assembly’s recent vote to refer Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory to the International Court of Justice at the PA’s request.
Israel’s Security Cabinet also said it would further deduct revenue it typically transfers to the cash-strapped PA – a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including those implicated in attacks against Israelis.
The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund incentivises violence. Israel’s withholding of the funds threatens to exacerbate the PA’s fiscal woes.
“Israeli blackmailing of our tax revenues will not stop us from continuing our political and diplomatic struggle,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. He added that the Israeli measures will deepen the Palestinian financial crisis and budget shortfall.
Netanyahu took office late last month at the head of a coalition with far-right and Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties that is regarded as the most right-wing in Israeli history.