Over 90 countries urge Israel to lift sanctions put on Palestinians after the UN vote

NEW YORK — More than 90 countries on Monday called on Israel to reverse steps taken against the Palestinian Authority over its push for an investigation into Israel at the United Nations.

Late last month, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution promoted by the Palestinians requesting that the International Court of Justice weigh in on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Israeli “annexation” and the “legal status of the occupation.”

After the resolution passed, Israel decided to deduct funds from the Palestinian Authority for the benefit of Israeli terror victims, revoked the PA foreign minister’s special travel permit, and denied benefits to certain Palestinian officials, among other measures.

The statement released Monday was signed by representatives of Arab nations and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 37 other countries — 27 of them from Europe, including Germany, France and Italy, as well as Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

“Regardless of each country’s position on the resolution, we reject punitive measures in response to a request for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, and more broadly in response to a General Assembly resolution, and call for their immediate reversal,” the letter said.

Germany’s UN mission said countries hold diverging views on last month’s resolution but “agree on the rejection of punitive measures in response to the resolution.”

“Seeking an advisory opinion of the ICJ cannot and should not be a cause of punitive measures. For anybody. Anytime,” Denmark’s UN mission said.

France and Belgium issued statements after signing, reaffirming their commitment to “international law and multilateralism.”

Also Monday, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he “notes with deep concern the recent Israeli measures against the Palestinian Authority” and that there should “be no retaliation with respect to the Palestinian Authority in relation to the International Court of Justice .”

The 193-member General Assembly voted 87-26 with 53 abstentions on December 30 to pass the ICJ resolution.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, left, speaks alongside Hayashi Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, during a Security Council meeting, January 12, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Among the retaliatory measures approved by the Israeli government were seizing $39 million in tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA and channeling them to Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism; deducting from the revenues to offset payments the PA makes to Palestinian terrorists, attackers, security prisoners and their families; freezing Palestinian construction in much of the West Bank; and canceling some Palestinian VIP benefits.

The move highlighted the tough line the new government is taking towards the Palestinians, at a time of spiking violence in the West Bank and with peace talks a distant memory.

The resolution calling for the investigation is titled “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories” and calls on the Hague-based ICJ to “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation” , settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”

It also calls for an investigation into Israeli measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and says Israel has adopted “discriminatory legislation and measures.”

A UN General Assembly voted December 30, 2022, on a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Screenshot/UN)

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the top UN court for mediating disputes between countries. Its rulings carry legal weight and influence public opinion but it has no mechanism for enforcement. The court is separate from the International Criminal Court, which is also in The Hague.

The court last issued an advisory opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004 when the General Assembly asked it to rule on the legality of the security barrier Israel built along much of the West Bank.

Israel has blasted last month’s resolution as biased and dismissive of Israeli security concerns.

Israel’s UN envoy, Gilad Erdan, condemned the text for referring to the Temple Mount by only its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews as the site of the ancient temples, and the third holiest site in Islam as the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Erdan also censured the UN for holding the vote after the start of Shabbat.

The Palestinians applauded the resolution as a “diplomatic victory.”

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian representative to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, January 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Temple Mount was also the focus of a heated emergency Security Council session earlier this month that was convened after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the flashpoint site.

The Security Council will hold another hearing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday morning.

The UN has a long history of passing resolutions against Israel, and Israel and the US accuse it of bias. Israel has accused the Palestinians, who have nonmember observer state status at the UN, of trying to use the world body to circumvent peace negotiations and impose a settlement.

Last year, the General Assembly passed more resolutions critical of Israel than against all other nations combined.

In addition to resolutions, there are open-ended investigations against Israel being carried out by a UN commission of inquiry, and by a special rapporteur, the only country under such scrutiny. Members of both investigations are on the record making antisemitic statements, but have not faced any repercussions from the UN for their comments.

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