Monday, December 24, 2012

Palestinian Officials Warn Israel of Retaliation If Netanyahu Re-elected

Palestinian officials have warned they will take retaliatory steps, including joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), if Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is re-elected in a general election due next month.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: AFP
They have also raised the possibility of mass demonstrations, encouraging international sanctions against Israel and ending the security co-ordination with the Israeli military that has kept the West Bank largely quiet since the end of the Palestinian intifada in 2005.
The warning is a counterattack against a flurry of announcements from Mr Netanyahu's government that it intends to build new settlements consisting of more than 6,000 homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on land the Palestinians want as part of a future state.

The US, the European Union and the United Nations have condemned Israel's plans as harmful to prospects for a two-state solution.
Now, in a move calculated to worry Mr Netanyahu, officials in Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA) have indicated they will join the ICC with a view to pursuing Israel for war crimes over its settlement programme.
Fear of Palestinian ICC membership was a key reason behind Israel's opposition to last month's successful application for UN de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood. Until now, Mr Abbas has not said whether he would apply to join the ICC.

"2013 will see a new Palestinian political track," Hussam Zumlot, a senior adviser to Mr Abbas, told AP. "There will be new rules in our relationship with Israel and the world."

"We are going to pursue this policy to reach a point of having the international community impose sanctions on Israel," said Qais Abdelkareem, a Palestine Liberation Organisation official said.
The broadside came as a new poll, published in Maariv newspaper, showed two-thirds of Israelis were opposed to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Some 51 per cent backed Mr Netanyahu's highly controversial decision to build in a contested part of the West Bank called E1, which critics say would reduce such a state's territorial coherence.

Israeli commentators say Mr Netanyahu's rush to announce new settlements has been driven by the electoral threat represented by the pro-settler Jewish Home party, led by his former chief of staff, Naftali Bennett.

The latest polls show Mr Netanyahu's Likud Beiteinu bloc on course to win 37 out of 120 seats in the January 22 election, with Jewish Home set to take 12. A Likud official told Haaretz newspaper that international censure of the prime minister's settlement plans were helping his election chances by boosting his appeal among Right-wing voters.

Mr Bennett, 40, the son of American immigrants, provoked controversy on Thursday by appearing in a television interview to urge Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evict Jewish settlers.

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