Fatah leader discounts Israeli sanctions threat
Published 12 October 2012 17:55
By Jihan Abdalla
RAMALLAH (Reuters) - Israel will not carry out its threat of financial
sanctions if Palestinians achieve a statehood upgrade at the United Nations,
a Fatah leader predicted on Monday.
Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israel had no interest in bringing about the collapse
of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the
occupied West Bank.
"In my opinion, most of the declared measures will be empty threats, rather
than serious ones, because Israel has a vested interest in maintaining the
status of the Palestinian Authority," Shtayyeh told journalists in Ramallah.
Peace talks with Israel have lain dormant since 2010. Pursuing a
diplomatically risky alternative, Abbas will ask for an upgrade at the UN
General Assembly to make Palestine an "observer state", rather than just an
"entity" as at present.
The switch from entity to state, means Palestine could not only participate
in assembly debates, but also join various UN agencies, such as the
International Criminal Court, which it could use to try to penalize the
He is virtually assured of a majority vote in favor. But the United States
and Israel have warned well in advance that they will not accept the
outcome, insisting only a peace treaty with Israel can truly establish an
independent Palestinian state.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said Israel would retaliate by
withholding about $100 million monthly in taxes and customs duties which it
collects on the PA's behalf, a major source of their income.
The United States has reduced aid to the PA, which is struggling to pay the
salaries of its 153,000 employees and security apparatus.
When Palestinian leaders in the West Bank faced violent protests from their
people following austerity measures in September, Israel provided a hasty
advanced payment of the customs money, which helped the PA roll back the
measures and calm the streets.
Abbas has kept the West Bank quiet, in contrast to the Gaza Strip where the
ruling Hamas movement is frequently engaged in clashes with Israel.
Arab nations have pledged a financial safety net for the Palestinians for
the full amount withheld by Israel, but wealthy Gulf countries have often
fallen short on their aid pledges.
Shtayyeh and other senior officials predict Israel may hit back at their UN
initiative by building and legalizing more Israeli settlements in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem -- an expansion most countries would condemn.