Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his cabinet of eight on Tuesday evening the significantly increase settlement construction and expansion activities in occupied East Jerusalem, and the settlement blocs of Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion.A spokesperson to Netanyahu stated that the plan includes the construction of 2000 new settlement units in West Bank areas, described by Israel as areas that will always remain under Israeli control, and will not be evacuated under any peace agreement.
Nabil Abu Rodeina, spokesperson to President Abbas, stated that the Israeli decision to accelerate the construction and expansion of settlements is a sharp blow to all efforts meant to ensure the resumption of peace talks.
Abu Rodeina added that withholding funds, Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, “is considered an act of theft, as this money belongs to the Palestinian people”.
The cabinet is also considering revoking all VIP cards granted to Palestinian officials, in order to punish the P.A for obtaining full UNESCO membership on Monday.
Abu Rodeina said that Israel’s settlement activities are ongoing, and that Israel is just using the UNESCO vote as an excuse to accelerate the constructions.
The Israeli cabinet said that Israel will freeze the transfer of hundreds of millions of New Israeli shekels of taxes Israel collects on behalf of the P.A on border terminals, exports and imports. Israel collects nearly $50 Million each month.
The cabinet will likely hold another meeting soon to discuss sanctions against the UNESCO in Jerusalem for admitting Palestine to the organization.
A number of cabinet members expressed rejection to the move as they believe that withholding funding to the P.A will have negative impact on Tel Aviv.
Israeli Daily, Ynet news, reported that Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, stated that withholding funds will prevent the P.A from paying salaries of security forces “working along with Israel against terror”.
It is worth mentioning that the Unites States also said that it will freeze its funding to the UNESCO, and decided to suspend the transfer of $60 Million that were scheduled to be transfer this month.
An Israeli government official to the Ynet that Israel must take the UNESCO vote seriously, and will likely conduct “its own unilateral measures” in addition to “weighing the ramifications of admitting Palestine to the UNESCO”.
The Palestinian Authority stated that what Israel is doing is “outrageous, and a slap to the International Community”.
P.A officials said that the Quartet and the International Community must act against the illegal Israeli measures that are only meant to boost the occupation.
Earlier in August, The OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) at the UN issued a report stating that Israel settlements in the occupied territories violate the International Humanitarian Law, adding that the settlements are the reason Israel is hindering the freedom of movement of the Palestinians.
Settlements also violate the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.