FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
22 February 2006
Al-Haq is disturbed by the measures recently adopted by the Israeli Government in its 19 February Cabinet meeting, ostensibly in response to the results of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections. Such measures will have a deteriorating effect on the already dire situation of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
During the meeting, the Israeli Government decided to take five immediate measures - stopping the transfer of taxes and tariffs to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) which Israel collects on its behalf; lobbying the international community to refrain from all financial assistance to the PNA; preventing the transfer of means to the Palestinian security services; restricting the movement of individuals affiliated with Hamas, including members of the PLC; and tightening checks on both people and goods at checkpoints. In addition to these measures, the Annexation Wall, whose construction in the OPT was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion, is being accelerated. The Israeli government also threatened to take any other measures it deems "necessary" in the OPT.
Al-Haq categorically condemns the retention of Palestinian funds as a punishment for the legitimate results of Palestinian democratic elections, which local and international monitors determined to be free, fair and transparent. While there is no international legal obligation on Israel to recognise the Palestinian Government, its aggressive measures to undermine the PNAs functioning constitute an attack on the exercise of the right to self-determination by the Palestinian people in electing their representatives. This right is recognised by the UN Charter and upheld by the UN General Assembly, Security Council, Commission on Human Rights and the ICJ.
The withholding of tax revenues and tariffs will further impair the PNAs ability to exercise its duties and prevent it from carrying out its functions, notably those pertaining to the judiciary and law enforcement. These funds are Palestinian property and the means of subsistence for tens of thousands of civil servants and their families.
By freezing funds, lobbying against international assistance, and preventing the transfer of means to Palestinian security services, Israeli officials have stated their intention to bring the Palestinian economy to the point of starvation. Comparing these measures to "an appointment with a dietician," the Special Adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, Dov Weissglas, stated that "the Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die." Weakening the PNAs economic capabilities will result in the violation of the economic rights of Palestinians, and breach Israels obligations as the Occupying Power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The combination of these new economic constraints and additional movement restrictions will severely affect the Palestinians ability to fully realise their right to freely pursue their economic development.
In the aftermath of the Palestinian elections, Israeli officials have sought to capitalise politically on the outcome, diverting the attention of the international community from Israels violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT. On 18 February 2006, one day before the Israeli Cabinet meeting took place, Al-Haq documented increased restrictions on movement, as flying checkpoints were erected around Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, and longer delays were observed at already existing checkpoints. These intensified restrictions have continued since then.
It is imperative that the Palestinians not be punished for the legitimate exercise of their right to self-determination. Irrespective of the political situation, Israel is bound to uphold the fundamental norms of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT. In addition, the international community must take effective steps to ensure that Israel ceases its violations therein, and that those found responsible are held accountable.
Al-Haq calls upon the international community to intervene with the Israeli authorities seeking immediate revocation of these measures, and concrete assurances that Israel will not implement any additional measures that would further undermine the Palestinian right to self-determination. The Israeli rhetoric must not blind the international community to the on-going violations of international human rights and humanitarian law characteristic of Israels 38-year-long occupation of the OPT.
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