The Israeli government political-security cabinet meeting, chaired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (far right) (Israeli prime minister's office Facebook page, January 6, 2023).
Fatah delegation visits homes of released prisoner Karim Yunes (right) and his mother (left) (Mahmoud al-'Aloul's Twitter account, January 7, 2023).
Fatah delegation visits homes of released prisoner Karim Yunes (right) and his mother (left) (Mahmoud al-'Aloul's Twitter account, January 7, 2023).
- On the night of December 30, 2022, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the Palestinian proposal to request an advisory legal opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the “Israel’s ongoing violations of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” and to examine how Israel’s “continuing occupation” in Judea and Samaria influenced the legal status of the occupied territory and possible consequences of the “occupation” on international relations towards Israel.
- In response, Israel’s Political and Security Cabinet decided on a series of steps to counter the PA’s unilateral action, including freezing the transfer of funds to the PA, freezing Palestinian construction plans, revoking privileges received by members of the Palestinian leadership and instituting measures against Palestinian NGOs which operate against Israel under the guise of “humanitarian activities.”
- The Cabinet’s decision led to strong Palestinian protests and condemnations. Members of the Palestinian leadership stressed that the “punishments” would not deter them and that they would not only continue but would intensify the diplomat and lawfare “struggle” [propaganda campaign] they were waging against Israel. Some of them called for ending security coordination with Israel, cancelling the Paris Agreement and initiating a boycott of Israeli products. There were also calls for escalating the “popular resistance” [popular terrorism] in the Palestinian Authority territories and integrating it into activities in the international arena as a way to “struggle” against the Cabinet decision. Hamas condemned the decision as well and called on the PA to continue its international “struggle” against Israel in the various law courts and not to surrender to pressure.
- In addition, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant revoked the entrance permit of three Fatah leaders after they visited released prisoner Karim Yunes, from the Israeli Arab village of Ara, who served a term of forty years for killing an Israeli soldier in 1980 (Israeli media, January 7, 2023). That also led to a wave of angry reactions from the Palestinians.
- The “popular resistance” [popular terrorism] encouraged by the Palestinian leadership in Judea and Samaria, for the PA has been waging a long political, diplomatic and lawfare battle with the objective of undermining Israel’s legitimacy, damage its image and causing the international community to isolate and boycott it. To that end the Palestinian leadership, led by Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, and Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian delegate to the UN, have been active in international venues, including UN agencies, to promote unilateral measures against Israel, for instance, the appeals to international courts. At the same time they work to update the PA’s international status, for example by changing the PA’s status from observer state to full UN member. Even after the steps recently taken, the PA is apparently determined to continue and intensify its activities against Israel in the international arena.
The Israeli Government measures
- The Israeli Political-Security Cabinet held a meeting in response to the Palestinian decision to intensify the political-lawfare campaign it is waging against the State of Israel and appeal to the ICJ. The Cabinet members stressed the issue would receive a suitable reaction and decided the following:
- Israel will transfer 139 million shekels (a little over $40 million) from the tax funds it collects for the PA, to implement the legal decision compensating the families of victims who were killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks (the Litvak file).
- The immediate deduction of PA payments from the tax funds to terrorists and their families in 2022.
- Freezing Palestinian construction plans in Area C.
- Revoking the special privileges received by Palestinian VIPS who lead the lawfare and political campaigns against Israel.
- Taking measures against the organizations in Judea and Samaria which promote terrorist or other hostile activities, including lawfare and political activities against Israel disguised as “humanitarian activity.”
The Israeli government political-security cabinet meeting, chaired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (far right) (Israeli prime minister’s office Facebook page, January 6, 2023).
- The Israeli cabinet’s decision was strongly criticized by the Palestinians. The PA leadership stressed they would continue their “diplomatic” activity against Israel and would not be deterred by the measures taken against them. PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh claimed the steps Israel was taking were nothing but a plan to cause the PA to collapse and make it incapable of providing local residents with services. According to reports, Shtayyeh is expected to visit the EU in the near future to clarify the significance of Israel’s measures against the Palestinians. Other members of the Palestinian leadership called on the United States and the international community to institute practical measures against Israel, which could lead to a “regional explosion.” The also claimed they were planning to consider additional legal and political measures to slander and libel Israel regarding its activities against the Palestinian.
- Members of the Fatah leadership, among them deputy Fatah chairman Mahmoud al-‘Aloul, raised the cry to escalate the “popular resistance” [popular terrorism] to “protest” Israel’s measures to “punish” the Palestinians. A PLO leader affiliated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) called for the PA to end security coordination with Israel, cancel the Paris Agreement and lead an economic boycott of Israel which would include Israeli- and settlement-manufactured goods. Hamas also condemned the Cabinet decision and called on the PA to continue its international “struggle” against Israel in the law courts, not to surrender to pressure and to create a unified Palestinian front.
Warning: the Netanyahu government is playing with fire (al-Quds, January 7, 2023).
Israel revokes entrance permits of Fatah leadership
- In addition to the Cabinet’s measures, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant revoked the entrance permits of three members of the Fatah leadership after they visited the house of former prisoner Karim Yunes in the village of Ara in north-central Israel. Yunes was released from jail after having served a term of 40 years for killing an Israeli soldier (Israeli media, January 7, 2023).The three Fatah leaders whose permits were revoked were deputy Fatah chairman Mahmoud al-‘Aloul, Azzam al-Ahmed and Rawhi Fatouh. In response, Mahmoud al-‘Aloul claimed he had not received a formal notice of the decision and all he knew was what was in the media. He also claimed that since they had expected an Israeli reaction, they had informed the international community [of their intention to visit Yunes]. Hussein al-Sheikh, general secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said revoking their entrance permits and privileges violated agreements between the two side.
Fatah delegation visits homes of released prisoner Karim Yunes (right) and his mother (left) (Mahmoud al-‘Aloul’s Twitter account, January 7, 2023).
Reactions of prominent Palestinians and organizations
- Mahmoud Abbas said the PA would vigorously confront the “serious violations of the new Israeli government and the extremist settler organizations,” whether regarding the “desecration” of al-Aqsa mosque and the Islamic holy place or the passing or “racist laws” which violated international law and signed agreements (Wafa, January 7, 2023).
- Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that they condemned and rejected the measures declared by the government of Israel. He added that the Palestinians’ rights could not be haggled over and they would continue the political, diplomatic and lawfare “struggle” [libel, slander and propaganda]. He called on the international community, especially the American administration, to take immediate steps to stop Israel’s threats, which were liable to “drag the Middle East into an explosion [sic]” (Wafa, January 6, 2023).
- PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh claimed that although the unending “Israeli theft” of Palestinian tax funds worsened the PA’s financial crisis and increased its debt, it would not deter them from continuing their political-diplomatic “struggle” in international forums (Muhammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page, January 6, 2023). He repeated what he had said at the weekly PA government meeting, that the Israel’s objective was to cause the PA to collapse and push it to its financial brink. He added that the deductions were illegal and violated agreements between the sides (Wafa and Muhammad Shtayyeh’s Facebook page, January 9, 2023).
- Hussein al-Sheikh, general secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, claimed the measures declared by Israel (“the occupation”), especially the ongoing “theft of Palestinian money,” would not prevent them from prosecuting the Israeli government in international institutions and forums or from denouncing Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. He called on the international community to force the government of Israel to release the millions of shekels it had “stolen” (Hussein al-Sheikh’s Twitter account, January 6, 2023).
- Muhammad Shalaldeh, Palestinian minister of justice, claimed the measures taken by Israel after the Palestinian’s move in the UN violated international law and their objective was to take revenge on the Palestinians. Israel, he claimed, did not recognize international law or the agreements it signed with the Palestinians. He also said that the international community, especially the Security Council, was responsible for not doing anything to stop Israel’s violations, which threatened international peace and security. He called for a UN resolution designating Israel as an apartheid state (Dunia al-Watan, January 7, 2023).
- The PA foreign ministry stated that Israel’s current and previous measures would not deter the Palestinians and their leadership from continuing the “political, diplomatic and lawfare struggle” to achieve international protection for the Palestinians and to stop Israel from evading its responsibilities, make Israel accountable and punish it to force the end of the “occupation” of Palestinian lands. The ministry also called on the American administration for serious, genuine intervention to keep the Netanyahu government from carrying out its plans (PA foreign ministry website, January 6, 2023). On another occasion the ministry condemned Israel’s decision to revoke the entrance permits of Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki; Ziyad Abu Omar, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, and Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian delegate to the UN (who claims not to have a permit). The ministry claimed that despite the measures taken by Israel, the PA foreign minister and foreign ministry would continue to lead the PA’s diplomatic and lawfare processes [propaganda campaign] (PA foreign ministry website, January 7, 2023).
- Deputy Fatah chairman Mahmoud al-‘Aloul claimed that the “vengeful decisions of the fascist occupation government” were perfectly clear and “exposed Israel in all its ugliness.” He claimed the world had to “understand the crimes Israel committed against the Palestinians,” noting they would continue “struggling” on every international platform and forum to turn the positions expressed in the Security Council and Fatah into more influential measures, and would meet the challenges Israel posed for them on the ground by escalating the “popular resistance” [popular terrorism] (Dunia al-Watan, January 7, 2023).
- Ramzi Rabah, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said that at the most recent Committee meeting (January 5, 2023), a two-thirds majority of its members had presented a memorandum calling for the end of security coordination, a boycott and to delegitimize the Israeli government and escalate the “resistance” [terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers]. He stressed that the Palestinian leadership had no political justification for hesitation, waiting or delaying the implementation of the aforementioned measures (Ma’an, January 8, 2023)
- Taysir Khaled, an operative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), called on the Palestinian leadership to counteract the sanctions Israel imposed on the Palestinians by no longer implementing the Paris Agreement, a general boycott of Israeli-manufactured products which have available replacements, closing Palestinian government tenders to Israeli bidders, closing Palestinian markets to products imported from Israel, renewing the activities of the popular boycott committees and the consumer protection committees to prevent Israeli products from entering Palestinian markets and encouraging the national product. He also noted the importance of implementing the law passed in 2010 banning the entrance of goods and services from the settlements into the Palestinian markets, adding that anyone who broke the law should be tried for economic crimes and have the most dire punishments inflicted on them (Dunia al-Watan, January 9, 2023).
- Hamas strongly condemned “punishing the Palestinians and the PA,” especially the “theft of more of the money” the PA gives to the families of shaheeds and prisoners, and preventing Palestinians from building on their own lands. Hamas called it a “crime and Zionist attack on the Palestinians’ natural rights,” and an attempt to influence the UN resolution to prosecute Israel in the ICC. Hamas called on the PA not to surrender to threats and blackmail and to continue the proceedings against Israel in international courts (Hamas website, January 6, 2023).
 For further information see the January 2, 2023, bulletin, " A Palestinian "victory" in the international arena: the UN votes to ask the International Court of Justice for a legal opinion regarding Israel's practices in the territories." ↑
 In accordance with the Paris Agreement of 1994, which is an appendix to the Oslo Accords, Israel collects tax funds for the PA and transfers them to the PA on a monthly basis. ↑
 Tax funds Israel charges the Palestinians and is supposed to return them to the PA according to the Oslo Accords. ↑
 A legal decision according to which the PA has to pay victims of Palestinian terrorism 130 million shekels (about $37.5 million). ↑
 In addition, Shtayyeh said between the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2022, the total amount of funds Israel had deducted from the money the Palestinians paid the families of prisoners and shaheeds was about two billion shekels (about $567 million), 1.6 million shekels (about $469 million) in 2022 alone. He said the Israeli government charged an annual fee of 350 million shekels (about $103 million) to collect and transfer the funds to the PA. Israel also holds Palestinian funds from taxes paid for bridge crossings, more than a million shekels (about $28.4 million) (Wafa and Muhammad Shtayyeh's Facebook page, January 9, 2023). ↑
 Taysir Khaled was a DFLP member of the PLO's Executive Committee until he resigned and was replaced by Ramzi Rabah in February 2022. He is currently head of the PLO's "national" committee to defend the land and "resist" the settlements, a Executive Committee subcommittee he established in 1996; its offices are in Ramallah. ↑