Photo: Flash90

Israel strips travel pass for PA FM

Israeli authorities confiscated the VIP travel pass of Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki as he crossed into the West Bank through the Allenby crossing from Jordan.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Ministry official Ahmad al-Deek said the incident occurred after Maliki returned from a meeting with International Criminal Court (ICC) lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at her office in The Hague.

Bensouda announced earlier this month that the ICC will launch a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories during the 2014 Gaza War, but excluded the Palestinian terrorist murders of 3 Israeli teenagers that sparked the conflict.

The ICC decision was enthusiastically welcomed by Ramallah but strongly denounced by Jerusalem, which argues that the move is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and politically-motivated against Israel.

This past Friday, both sides were sent official notification of the probe which permits one month for either to file for a deferral.

Maliki’s office said he met with Bensouda to urge that the investigation be accelerated.

The Israeli-granted VIP pass is designed to facilitate entry by PA officials and their staff through checkpoints with minimal security, although Deek maintained that “the minister was held up for around half an hour, and his staff was delayed for around an hour, all told,” after having to undergo questioning by the Israel’s Shin Bet security agency.

Neither the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Israeli Foreign Ministry or the Shin Bet responded to requests for comment.

An Israeli official was cited by local media as confirming the incident as a ‘one-time decision’ over Maliki’s ICC visit.

Saying that “we regard this as an attack against the State of Palestine,” Deek said that the minister left the crossing without the card and it is unclear as to when it would be returned to him.

In later statements to the official Palestinian Authority WAFA news agency, Deek underscored that “The foreign minister stressed…the importance of expediting investigations into the crimes committed in the territory of the State of Palestine, in a manner that ensures justice for the victims and their families among the Palestinian people,” going on to charge that “Israel is unable to solve cases through the law, but instead resorts to a policy of intimidation, sanctions and threats.”