Palestinians call for sanctions against Israeli banks supporting settlements

Israel's controversial wall separating the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov (foreground) in the northern area of east Jerusalem and the Palestinian neighborhood of al-Ram (background) in the West Bank
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP)
Call for sanctions after media reports said Israel bank channeled govt funds to settler group for construction

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday called on the United Nations and other international instituions to impose sanctions on Israeli banks which provide "financial facilities to settlers and settlement construction."

A statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to a specific alleged case of an Israeli bank providing funds to a pro-settlement organization to aid in the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Haaretz daily reported earlier this week that in 2002, the leader of the organization Amana, signed for two loans with Bank Tefahot worth a total of NIS five million, or the equivalent of $1.05 million at the time.

According to the report, the funds were supplied by the Israeli government, and used to aid construction of the illegal Amona and Migron outposts, both of which have since been evacuated.

Amana never had ownership rights of the Palestinian land it was mortgaging, said Haaretz.

The Palestinian MFA condemned "in the strongest terms" the Israeli government's participation "in the process of granting 'Amana settlements' company, financial loans from an Israeli bank, in return of mortgaging occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, and through explicit guidance from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, as stated in the Israeli media."

The MFA went on to say that the report revealed "the involvement of at least an Israeli bank, in granting financial facilitations to support settlement’s construction and colonial occupational associations and companies."

"The ministry follows closely this serious issue with local, regional and, international specialized forums, demanding the United Nations and its institutions, in addition to international financial institutions to follow up this blatant violation of international law, and impose the necessary sanctions on the Israeli banking system, the Israeli banks involved in it, and the all providers of financial facilities to settlers and settlement’s construction," the statement concluded.

Members of Amana have been arrested in the past for involvement in plots to buy land in the West Bank using forged documents and without the consent of the landowners.

Both Amona and Migron were evacuated and ordered to be demolished by Israel's Supreme Court, which ruled that they had been built on land privately owned by Palestinians.

The Israeli government last week passed the "Regularization Bill", which will retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes built illegally on privately owned Palestinian lands, sparking fierce condemnations from the international community.

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