Norway is strongly critical of the punitive measures that the new Israeli government is introducing against the Palestinians, calling them unacceptable and fearing serious negative consequences.
Israel’s far-right government on Friday adopted a series of new punitive measures against Palestinians in response to their requests for the United Nations’ highest legal body, the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), to investigate the occupation.
Israel calls this “a decision to wage political and legal war against the Israeli state” and wants, among other things, to withhold 390 million Norwegian kroner belonging to Palestine. The money will instead go to a fund for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks.
Norway abstained when Palestine’s request for an International Court of Justice investigation was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (PA) still reacts forcefully to the Israeli government’s decision.
– Norway is strongly critical of the Israeli government’s announcement of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority. I strongly urge the Israeli authorities to respect the agreements made and to transfer the funds that belong to the Palestinians, he told NTB on Saturday.
Israel will also seize the taxes it collects on behalf of Palestine. The amount will match what the Palestinian authorities granted last year to the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, as well as the survivors of slain Palestinians, she says.
Israel claims that the so-called martyr support encourages the use of violence, but the Palestinian authorities argue that it is ordinary social assistance.
– According to the agreements concluded between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli authorities are responsible for collecting Palestinian customs and tax revenues in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which are then to be transferred to the Palestinian authorities. These funds are an important source of income for the self-government authorities and are absolutely necessary for Palestinian institutions and services to function, Huitfeldt stresses.
– If Israel withholds the funds, it will be an unacceptable punitive measure that will weaken Palestinian institutions and contribute to further deterioration of the already weak Palestinian economy. This in turn will have serious negative consequences for a vulnerable population living under occupation, he says.
It cannot be accepted
The new Israeli government, in which several ultra-nationalist and Orthodox extremists have been given cabinet posts, has also decided to limit the freedom of movement of Palestinians “who lead the political and legal struggle against Israel”.
Unlike ordinary Palestinians, Palestinian leaders have been able to easily move in and out of the occupied West Bank, but that will now end.
The government has previously announced an expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, in direct violation of a request by the United Nations Security Council for a complete halt to construction. For the Palestinians of the so-called area C in the West Bank, on the other hand, a total ban on building is introduced. This cannot be accepted, says Huitfeldt.
– We also cannot accept the tightening of Palestinian building permits in Area C in the West Bank that Israel has announced. This will further limit economic growth and Palestinians’ right to use and develop their land, she says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, described as the most extremist in Israel’s history, warns against “measures” against organizations in the West Bank that “promote terrorist activity and enmity,” including groups that ” under the pretext of humanitarian work they wage a political and legal battle against Israel”.
– If this is done, it is unacceptable, says Huitfeldt, who stresses that civil society organizations and humanitarian actors must be able to work freely.
– We will follow up the matter with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, he says.
It is not clear which organizations are involved, but just over a year ago Israel labeled six Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorists, including many supported by Norway. This triggered fierce protests internationally, including from the United States, where the CIA ruled that Israel’s alleged evidence against the organizations did not hold water.