The fallout from Støre’s water boarding remarks

Many people chocked on their afternoon coffee by Støre’s fierce attack on Israel for withholding PA tax money.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented reaction by the Israeli foreign ministry, diplomats who mettle in the ME conflict, politicians and pundits will recognize this as a severe diplomatic scolding and offer Støre a handkerchief to dry off the spots he now has got on his face. Others, with more sophisticated political antennas that what Støre has been equipped with, will know that this is an unmendable tear in our current PMs laddered stockings (the pun is intended).

Also, kudos to VG for offering a balanced interview.

Israel: Very disappointed by Støre

(AP) Israeli authorities react strongly to Foreign Minister Støre’s accusation that Israel is strangling the Palestinian economy.

We are very disappointed by Støre, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told VG Nett.

Støre delivered the very harsh accusations against Israel when he met the press together with the Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad Thursday afternoon.

The foreign minister believes it is totally unacceptable by Israel to hold back money that rightfully belongs to the Palestinian Authority, and points out that Israel, through the Oslo Accords, has agreed to collect taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Water boarding

Foreign Minister used, among other things, the term “water boarding the economy” to describe the Israeli government’s decision to continue to withhold tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians.

Water boarding is a torture method that, among other things, been used against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

The statements from the Norwegian foreign minister has already attracted great attention in Israel,  being the focus of major news outlets’  news coverage.

We are always willing to listen to constructive criticism, but when it is performed with such a violent and unjust language, we cannot help but wonder what are the real motives of the Norwegian foreign minister, said Palmor.

Will these statements affect the relationship between Norway and Israel?

Such a language would lead to Norway having less influence. It is very difficult to take the Foreign Minister seriously when he delivers one such attack against Israel, without criticizing also against the other party, said Palmor.

Calls for Hamas criticism

A spokesman for the Israeli government, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Minister Støre should direct the criticism at Hamas, rather than to accuse Israel of violating international agreements.

I am impressed by the strength of Støre’s metaphors. Unfortunately we do not hear the same strong words about Hamas. I had hoped for a more consistent approach from the Norwegian foreign minister, said the spokesman, adding:

Why he did not ask Fayyad to why the Palestinians do not establish a separate system to collect tax money? The answer is probably that most of the money would disappeared through corruption and inefficiency. It is very convenient for the Palestinians to let Israel do it for them. They complain a lot, but instead of doing something themselves they are only concerned with criminalizing Israel.

But according to the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to collect tax on behalf of the Palestinian Authority?

– Yes, but an agreement is not a menu you can choose from. The Palestinians have already breached their obligations by going to the United Nations and demanded a separate state, instead of solving the issue through negotiations.

Concerned about the economy

Israel began to withhold funds for the Palestinians two weeks ago, when the PA was admitted as a full member of the UN cultural organization UNESCO. According to the Palestinian prime minister, Israel is now withholding between 100 and 150 million dollars a month. It constitutes two-thirds of the budget of the Palestinian Authority.

Both Fayyad and Minister express concern that the Palestinian economy could collapse completely if Israel continues to withhold tax revenues.

Holding back the money make for a slow strangulation of the Palestinian economy. It goes against all international agreements and creates a completely untenable situation for the Palestinians. At the same time it can hurt Israel because it reduces the Palestinian authorities’ ability to ensure security in their areas, said the Labour minster.