Palestinians to pay 'heavy price' for UN move: minister

Palestinians to pay 'heavy price' for UN move: minister
Palestinians school children wave their national flag as president Mahmud Abbas greets his supporters following his trip to Washington DC, on March 20, 2014.

JERUSALEM - Renewed Palestinian action to join UN agencies and international treaties could push Israel to annex territory in the occupied West Bank, a hardline minister warned on Wednesday.

"If they are now threatening (to go to UN institutions), they must know something simple: they will pay a heavy price," Tourism Minster Uzi Landau told public radio.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday said he had begun steps to join several UN agencies, abandoning a pledge to freeze such action for the duration of peace talks - which end in just four weeks.

The Palestinians had repeatedly threatened to resume their action through international courts and the UN over Israel's settlement expansion on occupied territory in the West Bank and in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

"One of the possible measures will be Israel applying sovereignty over areas which will clearly be part of the State of Israel in any future solution," said Landau, a member of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu faction.

Landau's remarks were referring to areas of the West Bank populated by Jewish settlers which Israel hopes to retain in any future peace deal.

Israel could also hurt the Palestinians economically by acting "to block financial aid to them," the minister added.

Abbas made his announcement just hours after Israel reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, as Washington was working around the clock to resolve a major dispute over Palestinian prisoners.

The standoff came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on Tuesday after a lightning visit.

He had been due to fly back to the region on Wednesday for talks in Ramallah with Abbas but he cancelled his visit following the Palestinian leader's announcement, while attempting to remain optimistic.

"It is completely premature tonight to draw... any final judgement about today's events and where things are," he said in Brussels.

The top US diplomat had hoped to convince the Palestinians to extend the faltering talks beyond their April 29 deadline, with the sides discussing a proposal which would have included a limited freeze on settlement construction.

 

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