Israel and Palestinians clash at UN meeting as tensions rise

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Israel and Palestinians clash at UN meeting as tensions rise

By EDITH M. LEDERERtoday

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel’s U.N. ambassador accused the Palestinians on Wednesday of stabbing a knife into any chance for reconciliation by seeking an advisory opinion from the U.N.’s highest court on Israel’s decades-old occupation — and the Palestinian U.N. envoy accused Israel’s new government of seeking to crush its people.

The always contentious monthly U.N. Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was even more vitriolic and threatening this week, and U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland warned that “a dangerous cycle of violence persists on the ground, amidst increased political tension and a stalled peace process.”

“Israelis and Palestinians remain on a collision course amid escalating political and inflammatory rhetoric as well as heightened violence in the West Bank — both with potentially grave consequences,” he said. “Absent a concerted and collective effort by all, with strong support from the international community, spoilers and extremists will continue to pour more fuel on the fire and we will move still further from a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

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Underlying the ongoing violence is the Palestinians’ decades-long quest for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to roughly 500,000 Jewish settlers.

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In the latest confrontation, the Palestinians and their supporters won U.N. General Assembly approval on Dec. 30 of a resolution asking the International Court of Justice or ICJ to intervene in one of the world’s longest-running and thorniest disputes and render an advisory opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While the court’s rulings are not binding, they do influence international opinion.

Israel’s new hardline government responded on Jan. 6 by approving steps to penalize the Palestinians in retaliation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were aimed at what he called “an extreme anti-Israel” step at the United Nations.

The measures include withholding $39 million from the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority and transferring the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks, deducting an amount equal to the sum the authority paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict including militants implicated in attacks against Israelis, and ending VIP travel privileges for leading Palestinians.

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The Palestinians responded by getting more than 90 countries to sign a statement expressing “deep concern” at penalizing the Palestinians for going to the court, and urging Israel to reverse the punitive measures. Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen rejected the statement.

At Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the Palestinians of drafting “a poisonous and destructive resolution” referring Israel to the ICJ “with the sole purpose of destroying Israel as the Jewish state.”

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Category: News View 25

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