CMEP Bulletin: Israel Responds to Palestinian Government with Settlements
Churches for Middle East Peace’s weekly news update
On June 2, the Palestinian Authority swore in 18 ministers to the new technocratic government in an important step towards patching up the costly rift between Fatah and Hamas. Eight out of the 18 ministers retained their seats from the old government and none have open Hamas affiliations. Nevertheless, the condemnation from Israel was swift. Days after the announcement, the Israeli government said that it would move ahead with construction plans for new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Despite threats from the Netanyahu government, Israel did not halt tax transfers as punishment. Instead, it sent $135 million to the new government the day it was announced. Without these tax transfers, the PA is unable to pay its bills. One Palestinian economist explained that, “Economic pressures are liable to bring down the [Palestinian] Authority — a risk that Israel cannot take.”
If there was any doubt about the timing of the construction announcement, housing minister Uri Ariel erased it, saying settlements are, “an appropriate Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror government” and this would be “just the beginning.”
The State Department said, “We are deeply disappointed. As we have consistently said, these actions are unhelpful and counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome.” Europeans took a stronger stance. According to The New York Times, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said he “deplored” the Israeli decision “to expand a number of illegal settlements, many of which are deep within the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem.”