Tovah Lazaroff
The Jerusalem Post
September 26, 2011 - 12:00am

NEW YORK – Israel will weigh taking economic measures against the Palestinian Authority if it continues to pursue unilateral steps and refuses to return to the negotiating table, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

He spoke with the Post from a hotel lobby in New York, where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been staying since his arrival last Wednesday.

“It is impossible to think that we will continue to help and to cooperate with the Palestinian authorities and the economy like nothing happened,” he said, just two days after PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN asking for unilateral statehood.

Among the measures he would consider, Steinitz said, would be to delay the monthly transfer of tax funds.

The Palestinian unilateral strategy is to gain a state without ending the conflict and it is a “betrayal” of the peace process, said Steinitz.

“I think it is up to us to think whether we take counter- measures and how to react to such a hostile move,” he added.

In the past, Steinitz said Israel has supported Palestinian state-building measures with the understanding that it is helpful to the process.

“Until now, we cooperated with the PA to help them build their institutes and their economy,” he said.

“Since Netanyahu took power we announced an economic peace approach.”

As a result the Palestinian economy has boomed and the standard of living has improved dramatically, he said. This was under the assumption that Israel and the Palestinians were part of a process that would create two states for two people, he said.

Now if the PA wants to move forward alone, he said, they might find themselves “alone” on the economic front as well.

“It will be very difficult, and even odd, for Israel to cooperate and to help the PA [economically] if they are going against Israel,” he said.

During this trip to the US, he said, he also visited Washington, where he met with a number of senators who spoke of the possibility that America could also cut off assistance to the Palestinians.

“American assistance to the PA is mainly in order to promote peace for both Palestinians and Israelis,” said Steinitz.

“The whole basis of it was [to move forward] bilaterally, not unilaterally.”

Steinitz said he agreed with Abbas’s statement that the Oslo Accords, and in particular the 1994 Paris Protocol that set out the terms of economic agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, should be re-examined.

“The Palestinian behavior is such that we have to reconsider Oslo,” he said.


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