Diplomacy

In Face of Palestinian Rejectionism, Israel Responds with Measured Steps

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday instructed high-level government officials to limit cooperation with Palestinian counterparts to security concerns and peace negotiations, a move that an Israeli government official told Reuters was in response to “the Palestinians’ grave violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace talks”:

Israeli government officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered cabinet members, directors-general of government ministries and other senior officials not to meet their counterparts in the Palestinian Authority.

The order does not apply to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief peace negotiator, or to defence and security officials, they said. A U.S. mediator has held a series of meetings over the past week to try to push the troubled talks past an original April 29 deadline for a deal.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas had last week hurriedly convened a press conference to announce that Ramallah would seek to ascend to 15 international treaties as the “State of Palestine.” The decision specifically violated black-letter commitments made by the Palestinian president in the context of a nine-month U.S.-backed peace push, and more broadly ran afoul of a central guarantee, provided under the Oslo Accords, to abstain from unilateral gambits that would upgrade the diplomatic status of disputed territories.

Both violations ignited fears that the Palestinians made the strategic decision to exploit a fundamental asymmetry in the peace process – under which Israel is expected to make tangible, irreversible concessions in exchange for symbolic, reversible promises – and, having pocketed Israeli concessions on territory and prisoners, were now abandoning their previous pledges. Top PA officials subsequently bragged that they didn’t expect to face “any consequences” from the United States, and Abbas himself ridiculed the possibility of Israeli retaliation.

Israeli outlets and international wires on Wednesday noted that Abbas, now reportedly fearing that Israel will take further measures in response to the Palestinian abandonment of literally decades of understandings, will ask the Arab League for potential financial support:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will ask Arab League foreign ministers to provide the Palestinian Authority with an economic safety net of $100 million a month, to help in case Israel imposes sanctions following the breakdown of talks.

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