Israel's illegal sanctions against Palestine

A Palestinian woman is seen walking past a gap between two cement blocks which form part of the Apartheid wall built by Israel near the village of Al-Ram between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah
The day after the swearing in of the new Palestinian parliament on February 18, the Israeli cabinet approved a package of sanctions and restrictions against the Palestinian people, describing the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) as "terrorist."

"As we stated immediately after the PA elections, upon the conclusion of the transitional government, Israel will immediately cease the transfer of funds to the PA," acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the weekly cabinet meeting, reported Agence France Presse (AFP). Olmert said Israel would not have any contacts with a PA "which is either completely or partially controlled by Hamas."

"It is clear that in light of the Hamas majority in the PLC (parliament) and the instructions to form a new government that were given to the head of Hamas, the PA is, in practice, becoming a terrorist authority," he claimed.

The sanctions will see a permanent halt to monthly transfers of tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA, worth around $50 million. Israel said it would also ask international donors not to transfer funds to the PA once Hamas formed a government.

Israel will also prevent Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from crossing into Israel for work and restrict the movements of Hamas members in the occupied West Bank. Israeli government sources said security checks would also be stepped up at crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas MPs had to watch the swearing-in proceedings of the new parliament via video link rather than in person at the Ramallah-based parliament after Israel refused to issue them travel permits to the West Bank.

In his speech before the new parliament, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Israel and the international community not to punish the Palestinians for electing Hamas.

Arab Israeli Knesset member Mohamed Baraka told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel that "The Israeli freeze of monthly transfers of tax revenues to the Palestinians is a daylight theft." He said the Israeli government repeatedly used such sanctions against the Palestinians to serve its own political interests.

"These sanctions are part of crimes against humanity practiced by Israel against the Palestinians. They adopted a similar approach with late president Yassir Arafat," he said. "The international community should live up to its responsibility. The United States should press Israel to halt these sanctions," Baraka added.

For its part, the United States has asked the PA to return $50 million on the ground it feared the money would go to Hamas. According to the BBC, the money was to be spent on regenerating the Palestinian economy following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. However, most of it is still in the bank and the PA has agreed to return it.

The new Palestinian parliament named senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to form the new government and elected an Hamas MP as its new speaker. "Hamas has become the majority in the Legislative Council and it will be tasked with the formation of the new government," Abbas told the inauguration of the newly-elected legislature. Hamas has five weeks to set up its government. It said it is working to draw other Palestinian factions into a national unity government.

Prior to the swearing in, Hamas leaders distanced themselves from Abbas's calls for a negotiated settlement to the conflict with Israel while stressing that political differences would be resolved through dialogue. "The speech by President Abbas included some positive points but we do have differences about the political part of his speech, as he has his program and we have ours," Haniyeh told AFP. "These differences about our positions and political program will be resolved by dialogue and through coordination, in the interests of the Palestinian people. Hamas has its own program and political vision and we are going to resolve these differences with the president through dialogue," he added.

TML Daily, February 22, 2006 - No. 21

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