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10 rockets launched toward Sderot as Netanyahu addresses cabinet
Israeli minister warns Palestinians to pay for UN move
Published Wednesday 02/04/2014 (updated) 03/04/2014 10:58
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(MaanImages/file)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli minister on Wednesday warned of punitive action if the PLO pursued efforts to join UN agencies, as hopes of a breakthrough in the US-led peace process faded rapidly.

"If they are now threatening (to go to UN institutions), they must know something simple -- they will pay a heavy price," Tourism Minster Uzi Landau told public radio.

President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said he had begun steps to join several UN agencies, abandoning a pledge to freeze such action for the duration of peace talks -- which end in just four weeks.

The Palestinians had repeatedly threatened to resume their action through international courts and the UN over Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is considered illegal under international law.

"One of the possible measures will be Israel applying sovereignty over areas which will clearly be part of the State of Israel in any future solution," said Landau, a member of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu faction.

Landau's remarks were referring to areas of the occupied West Bank populated by Jewish settlers which Israel hopes to retain in any future peace deal.

Israel could also hurt the Palestinians economically by acting "to block financial aid to them," the minister added.

Abbas made his announcement just hours after Israel reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem, as Washington was working around the clock to resolve a major dispute over Palestinian prisoners.

The standoff came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on Tuesday after a lightning visit.

He had been due to fly back to the region on Wednesday for talks in Ramallah with Abbas but he cancelled his visit following the Palestinian leader's announcement, while attempting to remain optimistic.

"It is completely premature tonight to draw ... any final judgement about today's events and where things are," he said in Brussels.

The top US diplomat had hoped to convince the Palestinians to extend the faltering talks beyond their April 29 deadline, with the sides discussing a proposal which would have included a limited freeze on settlement construction.

US peace efforts were already teetering on the brink after Israel refused to free a fourth and final group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners, which would have completed an agreement that had brought the sides back to the table.

"We aren't acting against the United States, nor against any other party. It is our right (to do so) and we accepted to postpone using it for nine months," Abbas said of the decision to seek membership of UN agencies.

The Islamic movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, welcomed the move by Abbas,

A poke in the eye

The negotiations have faltered over several issues, notably Israel's settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territory, with the Palestinians demanding a freeze on settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem.

Tuesday's 708 tenders in the east Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Gilo came on top of thousands of new homes announced over the course of the talks.

Israeli NGO Ir Amim described the tenders as "a poke in the eye of both the Palestinians and the Americans," army radio said.

And Hagit Ofran, from Israeli's Peace Now NGO, accused the housing ministry of "trying to forcefully undermine the peace process ... and John Kerry's efforts to promote it."

On Monday, the Palestinians gave Kerry a 24-hour deadline to come up with a solution to the prisoner row, warning that failure to do so would see them turning to UN bodies to press their claims for statehood.

Move 'not against America'

But late Tuesday afternoon, Abbas announced a request to join "15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately" to the relevant agencies, he said.

"This is not a move against America, or any other party -- it is our right, and we agreed to suspend it for nine months," he said, without explaining why he had acted before that period ended.

Kerry had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for two hours late Monday before meeting Palestinian negotiators, then the pair held a second meeting early Tuesday.

US efforts have been focused recently on getting the parties to agree an extension to the end of the year.

A US proposal to continue talks was to include a limited freeze on settlement construction, with Israel adopting "a policy of restraint with (West Bank) government tenders" but would not include annexed East Jerusalem.

Sources close to the negotiations had said Washington was also mulling a proposal to free Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison for spying on America on Israel's behalf.

One of the sources also said the final batch of Palestinian prisoners would be freed, and Israel would also agree to free another 400 security prisoners not involved in deadly anti-Israeli raids.

But White House Jay Carney said before the Tuesday afternoon developments that President Barack Obama had not made any decision on Pollard.

Separately, a spokesman for the US Justice Department said Pollard had waived his right to attend a meeting of a parole board that could have re-examined his ongoing detention.
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1 ) Maureen / Australia
02/04/2014 11:34
Bravo Mr Abbas!

2 ) AKeenReader / UK
02/04/2014 12:00
It's time for Palestinains to act and stop wasting time. It is laughable to hear Israeli minister saying that possible move by Israel could be to apply sovernity to settlement areas which they intend to keep within Israel. I just wonder which world do these Israel live in 'Cloud cuckoo land and not holy land'! lol

3 ) Sarah / The Netherlands
02/04/2014 14:51
Bennet did the same on "Israel's" channel 7 (March 30th) Israel's Channel 7 quoted Bennett as saying that the Palestinian President is threatening Israel to head to UN institutions, adding that Israel will find a way to prevent him. Bennett stressed that Israel will know how to behave with the Palestinian president and chairman of the Fatah movement and will condemn him for attempting to cause harm to Israel. (sounds familiar)

4 ) H / USA
02/04/2014 15:04
Do not give in to the organized pressure that is sure to follow. Long live Palestine in peace and prosperity, now and forever.

5 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
02/04/2014 16:03
Landau isn't mainstream. Israel will not annex the west bank. However, Israel may well indeed start pressing war crimes charges against Palestinian leaders for their roles in mass terrorism against civilians. There is no doubt that Palestinians committed war crimes (Amnesty and HRW already concluded that many times). The question is if there is a new leadership that can take over once the old guard is on trial in The Hague.

6 ) betz55 / USA
02/04/2014 17:40
And the world warns Israel, you will pay a heavy price for your illegal settlements, apartheid oppression, and stealing of Palestinian land. We are on the side of the Palestinians and we are winning. Your time is over.

7 ) shlomo / US
02/04/2014 18:47
LOL @brian cohen. what a ridiculous statement to make. do you know what amnesty and hrw say about israel? it seems not. the entitlement you feel you deserve is spewing from your comment. i only pray that you find sense and peace

8 ) Jim / USA
02/04/2014 18:47
Right Move! It's long overdue for the oppressed Palestinians. Bravo Abbas!

9 ) @ Abbas / USA
02/04/2014 20:38
You had two choices:
-1- To do Nothing & Cause No Harm, and
-2- To do Something Harmful to Palestine, and
You Chose Was
* TO SHOOT PALESTINE IN THE FOOT 15 TIMES, for surely:
- the 15 UN bodies will do nothing positive for Palestine, while
- Israeli punitive actions will greatly harm Palestinians in response !!

10 ) Outlier / USA
02/04/2014 20:58
The possibility of Israel unilaterally declaring Palestine borders is always present. The Israelis then will step back and watch Palestinians "stew in their own juices" as different political views and a general lack of money raise tensions towards a likely civil war.

11 ) Maureen / Australia
02/04/2014 21:41
Brian Cohen, pretty good at that, aren't you? Turning the real situation into a virtual reality! Your hasbara handlers realy have caused a problem for you. You need to get a hold on reality, mate. Israeli military junta has committed warcrimes many times over! The only thing preventing the Israeli junta from all out open slather against Palestinian people is Palistinian resilience and world media attention!

12 ) Mel / USA
03/04/2014 01:37
Ask Landau how much his 'Tourism'Dept gets from Christian Zionists extremists in USA,via JNF's'charity'fund,directly going to build ILLEGAL Jews-only colonies on OCCUPIED pluralistic Palestinian lands?How dare Zionists issue veiled threats to those who have the LEGAL RIGHT to seek justice from Israel's Judeo-Nazi evil(more visible daily)which polarizes Zionist-occupied Israel,from human dignity,honor & the WHOLE UNGA.Would Jews've heeded threats from Nazi's to"freeze"justice at Nuremburg?

13 ) ian / australia
03/04/2014 01:47
#5 "The question is if there is a new leadership that can take over once the old guard is on trial in The Hague." I'd just point out, Brian, it's Israeli leaders with the track record of having to stay on the plane because warrants for their arrest for war crimes have been issued (Doron Almog in London, "Bogie" Ya'alon in New Zealand frinstance) not Palestinian leaders. But here's a question 4U: why so petulant and mean? Palestine is a sovereign entity with borders defined in law (by the ICJ

14 ) ian / australia
03/04/2014 01:48
(contd.) opinion) and as such is perfectly entitled to membership of UN bodies like any other state. And G-d knows, they have valid grievances against their infinitely nasty occupier (who will obviously punish them viciously for it). So why so peevish about it all? Is it because the "natives" don't know their place? That they're refusing to be COMPLETELY demoralised and submit? That they're finally getting uppity?

15 ) Aref Assaf / USA
03/04/2014 01:53
Why is Israel upset? All the organization being solicited all pro peace, pro justice, pro human rights entities. If anything, membership in these world orgs will only require the PA and the PLO to respect the will of the international community and to induce such measures to foster peaceful resolutions to conflicts.

16 ) Arnold / Canada
03/04/2014 22:57
Jerusalem-1920 , Jaffa-1921 , Hebron-1929. On different occasions in different cities Palestinian Arabs massacred Palestinian Jews. The reason- simple- they were Jews. There was no established state of Israel. There was no occupation. Yell and scream occupiers and occupation all you like. You arabs killed Jews for fun. You did then and you do now. Only now you do it under the guise of occupation. And the peanut gallery out there eats it up. Maureen,Sarah,Ian,and my best buddy Mel /USA.
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