Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Rejecting U.N. Decision, Israel Punishes Palestinians

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Rejecting U.N. Decision, Israel Punishes Palestinians

Article excerpt

Despite the U.N. recognition of Palestine as an observer state, at least in the short term, with Israeli elections scheduled for January, things seem likely to get tougher for the Palestinians.

"Now we have become a state!" Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, told a crowd of thousands on Sunday in the courtyard of his headquarters in this Palestinian city.

The flags and balloons, the marching band and the huge poster on the outside wall of the compound proclaiming "You are now in the State of Palestine" added a festive touch as Mr. Abbas returned triumphant to his home turf, days after the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of an observer state in the face of heavy Israeli and American pressure.

Only an airplane flying high above the compound served as a reminder that Palestine has no airport while the Palestinians depend on Israeli ports for access to the sea. The traffic was as clogged as usual around the Kalandia checkpoint, which is controlled by Israel and largely seals Ramallah off from Jerusalem, the eastern part of which has now been widely endorsed as the future Palestinian capital.

The indications were that at least in the short term, with Israeli elections scheduled for January, things were likely to get tougher for the Palestinians.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, the Israeli government unanimously rejected the General Assembly decision. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Palestinian move as "a gross violation of the agreements that have been signed with the state of Israel."

Israel also said it would not transfer tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority this month, instead using the money, about $100,000,000, to pay off about half the debt run up by the authority to Israel Electric.

The Palestinian Authority has already been suffering from a financial crisis, often unable to pay the salaries of its employees on time. Palestinian officials said Arab countries had promised to donate funds and make up any shortfall caused by Israeli punitive actions, though it was a shortfall in donor money, largely from Arab states, that caused the financial crisis in the first place.

The financial sanctions came after a government decision to build 3,000 previously planned housing units in contested areas of Jerusalem and in parts of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any future arrangement with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have long refused to return to the negotiating table unless Israel halts settlement construction.

The government has also decided to continue planning and zoning work for development in a particularly contentious area of East Jerusalem known as E1, a project long condemned by Washington because it would harm the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state. …

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