TEL AVIV—Israel’s National Security Minister
has ordered the police to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces, the latest in a series of measures by the country’s new government that threatens to escalate tensions with Palestinians.
Palestinian flags aren’t illegal in Israel, but Israeli security forces have the right to remove them from public spaces if deemed a danger to public order. Mr. Ben-Gvir’s directive against a rallying symbol for many Palestinians comes during a period of deadly violence in the occupied West Bank.
“Today I ordered the Israeli police to enforce the prohibition against flying“ the Palestinian flag, Mr. Ben-Gvir tweeted late Sunday night. “We will fight against terrorism and the encouragement of terrorism with all our might.”
The announcement came after residents of an Arab village in northern Israel waved the Palestinian flag as part of a celebration for the homecoming of Karim Younis, who had spent four decades in Israeli prison after being convicted of murdering an Israeli soldier. Around 20% of Israel’s population is Arab, many of whom identify as Palestinians.
The move followed a series of measures by the Israeli government against the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, in retaliation for its moves against Israel in international forums.
Late in December, at the behest of the Palestinians, the United Nations voted in favor of asking the International Court of Justice, its highest judicial body, to deliver an advisory opinion on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, where millions of Palestinians have lived under Israeli security control for decades.
The measures announced on Friday include taking about $40 million from the tax Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and transferring it to Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism. Israel also froze Palestinian construction in areas under Israel’s complete control in the West Bank, halted benefits for senior Palestinian officials such as relatively easy freedom of movement and cracked down against organizations seen as promoting anti-Israeli activity under the guise of humanitarian work, according to Israeli Prime Minister
On Monday, Palestinian officials vowed to continue their diplomatic and legal campaign against Israel and warned that Israel’s measures could hasten the downfall of the Palestinian Authority, which has been suffering from a financial crisis for years as funding from international donors has waned.
“We do not trade our right to decide our fate and freedom for money or privileges,” said Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
in a cabinet meeting Monday, according to a readout by the official Palestinian news outlet Wafa. He called the Israeli measures a “new war on the survival” of the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli and Palestinian security forces work together in the West Bank against militants.
The previous Israeli government said strengthening the Palestinian Authority was crucial to law and order in the West Bank and weakening its rival, Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has fought numerous battles with Israel. That policy was supported by the Biden administration.
Powerful members of the newly established Israeli government, including Mr. Ben-Gvir, have said they support the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, while Mr. Netanyahu has long accused the Palestinian Authority leadership of inciting and encouraging terrorism.
Last year was the deadliest between Israeli and Palestinians in the West Bank in over a decade and a half.
The growing violence comes as the Palestinian Authority has begun to lose control over parts of the West Bank. The PA, which was established in 1994 to serve as the eventual government of an independent Palestinian state, recently clashed with Palestinian militant groups. Its popularity has been dwindling across all Palestinian cities, according to recent polls.
Israel already has a policy of withholding taxes from the Palestinian Authority that are equal to the amount of money the Palestinian government pays to prisoners in Israeli jails and families of those killed while attacking Israelis. From 2019 to 2022, that amount equaled around $570 million, according to Mr. Shtayyeh.
—Aaron Boxerman contributed to this article.
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