Palestinians deny Israel scaling back ties over UN vote

Palestinians deny Israel scaling back ties over UN vote

Defense minister's directive to limit cooperation after anti-settlement resolution is making no difference on the ground, PA officials say

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian officials asserted Sunday that Israel did not curtail coordination with the PA, casting doubt on the significance of an assertion by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that he had instructed the IDF to cut civilian ties over a United Nations resolution condemning settlements.

According to Army Radio, Liberman on Saturday ordered the IDF and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing Israel government policies in the West Bank, to cease all contact with political representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian civilians, as well as end all cooperation on political and civilian matters.

Liberman’s statement was part of the diplomatic fallout following the passage of the resolution at the UN Security Council on Friday.

But a senior official in the Palestinian Authority told The Times of Israel that meetings between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on civilian matters were continuing as usual. Furthermore, he said that the Palestinians had not received any notification that such interactions were to be suspended.

The spokesperson said that there were no discussions of larger policy issues happening anyway, so that the only ongoing meetings were about matters such as water and electricity, which were taking place as usual.

In response, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry told The Times of Israel that Liberman’s directive applied only to meetings between the IDF and political representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

The spokesperson stressed that security coordination would continue as usual along with ongoing practical matters including agriculture, water and the economy.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for clarification as to which specific activities were being suspended.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 was drafted in part by the Palestinians, who finalized the measure with the help of Egyptian and Arab diplomats last week.

The UN measure declares that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

The resolution was passed Friday evening by a 14-0 majority, with only the United States abstaining. Israeli officials have lashed out at the countries that proposed and backed the measure as well as the United States, which it accused of secretly initiating the resolution.

While Liberman’s order on Saturday was an ostensible first step against the Palestinians following the approval of the resolution, Israel has already taken a number of retaliatory measures against the states that supported its passage, including recalling envoys from New Zealand and Senegal, two of the co-sponsors of the resolution.

In addition, on Sunday afternoon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned US Ambassador Dan Shapiro for “clarifications” over the failure of the US to veto the resolution, and reportedly canceled a meeting with his British counterpart, Theresa May, that was planned for next month.

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