Israel takes Palestinian FM’s VIP pass in world court flap

Published January 8, 2023
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a news conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, following the Arab Ministerial Committee meeting in Amman, Jordan, April 21, 2022. — Reuters/File
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a news conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, following the Arab Ministerial Committee meeting in Amman, Jordan, April 21, 2022. — Reuters/File

Israel suspended on Sunday a pass easing the Palestinian foreign minister’s travel in and around the occupied West Bank, among its responses to a Palestinian bid to involve the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in their decades-old conflict.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s “VIP” travel card was confiscated by Israeli border staff as he crossed from Jordan into the occupied West Bank, his office said.

A spokesperson for Israel’s defence ministry, which administers the West Bank, confirmed the move, calling it part of the implementation of a government decision on Friday.

In televised remarks to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision entailed, among other measures, “sanctions against senior Palestinian figures”.

“The Palestinian Authority has promoted an extremist anti-Israeli resolution at the United Nations,” Netanyahu said.

The UN General Assembly, responding to an appeal by the Palestinians, on December 30 asked the ICJ for an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

On Saturday, Israel’s defence ministry said the VIP cards of three other senior Palestinian officials had been revoked in response to their visiting a member of Israel’s Arab minority who had been imprisoned for killing an Israeli soldier.

Issued under interim accords with Israel from the 1990s, the cards ease travel across the Israeli-controlled West Bank border with Jordan and from Palestinian-ruled territory into Israel.

“The foreign minister will continue his job and his diplomatic activities with or without the card,” Ahmed Al-Deek, an aide to Maliki, told Reuters.

Israel had confiscated Maliki’s VIP card in 2021 after he returned from a meeting of the International Criminal Court. It was not immediately clear when and why the card had been restored.

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