Israel braces itself for inclement weather on the international front and at home as a winter storm arrives and Jerusalem cuts off the supply of Palestinian tax revenues to Ramallah in response to the latter’s joining the International Criminal Court.
Cold weather and rains lashed Israel Saturday, but the government also put a freeze on over NIS 500 million (about $1.25 million) in Palestinian tax revenues collected from the West Bank (Israel Hayom cites a slightly lower figure of only NIS 400 million). Haaretz reports that the move comes in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the ICC earlier this week and submission of a complaint against Israel to the international body. The paper quotes unnamed senior Palestinian officials saying that the move by Israel constitutes “daylight robbery” and a violation of international law.
But just as Saturday’s rains were only the beginning of a storm front that’s expected to dump snow on Jerusalem later this week, the freezing of Palestinian assets was only a first step in retaliation to the PA’s ICC bid, a senior official tells the paper.
“The more significant and broader response will come soon,” the senior Israeli official is quoted by Haaretz saying. Additional moves will be discussed in high level ministry meetings later this week, the paper reports. One of those steps could involve prosecution of the Palestinian government in foreign courts, either by the Israeli government or by pro-Israel groups worldwide.
“It’s not the last step,” Interior Minister Gilad Erdan tells Israel Hayom, and anyway “turning to the UN [Security Council for statehood] and to international treaties was a drastic step” on the part of the PA. The paper quotes chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat saying that the move will not deter the Palestinian leadership from its course of action, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson saying that the Palestinians will resubmit their proposal to a more favorably comprised Security Council in the coming weeks.
Front page news in the tabloids, however, is Israel’s preparation for the winter storm of the year. Heavy rains, cold weather, and chance of snow at higher elevations has everyone on edge following last winter’s chaotic tempest that left many without power. Yedioth Ahronoth reports that nearly an inch of snow already fell on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, and nearly as much rain fell on cities in the center, causing flooding and washed out roads in a sign of things to come. Israel Hayom calls Saturday’s precipitation “only the calm before the storm.”
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that a blanket of white is expected from the Golan Heights in the north to as far south as Arad, on the northern extreme of the Negev Desert later at the storm’s peak on Wednesday.
Mount Hermon, home to Israel’s only ski facility, is preparing for the snow. Shaul Ohana, manager of the slopes, told Israel Hayom that they hope the flakes pile up. “The ski runs, salt trucks, snowmobiles, ski lifts — everything is prepared and ready for a big snowfall.” In Jerusalem, city hall was reportedly setting up a module on its webpage (www.jerusalem.muni.il) where residents can find up-to-date information about the condition of roads, schools, public transportation, etc.
Haaretz also front pages Yisrael Beytenu leader and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s statements over the weekend in which he charged that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the police were intentionally pursuing legal action against his party ahead of elections to take Yisrael Beytenu down. The context of Liberman’s accusation is an ongoing investigation by police into corruption allegations against senior Yisrael Beytenu party officials, and a letter by Weinstein to Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum telling her not to appear at the ministry for the next 30 days out of concern for possible obstruction of justice.
Liberman said that the letter to Kirschenbaum was unnecessary. “My only explanation for it is that his letter was intended for publicity purposes in order to neutralize the effect of Yisrael Beytenu’s successful press conference held the evening before. Unfortunately, it’s the modus operandi of all officials involved in investigation,” the paper quotes him saying.
Israel Hayom puts its report about a skirmish between Israeli settlers and US consular staff in the West Bank on Page 5, calling the altercation in which rocks were thrown at an American diplomatic vehicle “an exceptional incident.”
The consulate staff cars arrived at the Palestinian village of Turmusaya on Friday to inspect a reported price tag attack on “hundreds, and possibly thousands” of Palestinian olive trees owned, in part, by Palestinian Americans, the paper reports. According to the Palestinians, Israel Hayom reports, several Israeli settler youths from a neighboring outpost started throwing rocks at the cars. The security guards exited the vehicles and, during the ensuing altercation, drew their weapons, the paper says.
The State Department later denied that guns were drawn.