Netanyahu seeks to punish Israeli NGO for UN remarks


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will act to amend the country’s national service law so that young Israelis will no longer be able to serve at B’Tselem.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday evening comes a day after the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, as well as Americans for Peace Now, slammed Israel’s expansion in the West Bank and called on the international community to take action against what they call the occupation of Palestinian lands during a United Nations Security Council forum debate on the topic of “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution.”

Netanyahu and coalition chairman David Bitan discussed the issue during a meeting on Saturday evening, according to the statement.

Netanyahu has previously contacted the country’s attorney general over the issue. The attorney general said that the law needs to be amended, the statement said.

B’Tselem currently is entitled to fill one national service slot, paid for in part by the government.

“What these organizations cannot achieve through democratic elections in Israel, they try to achieve by international coercion,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

“The truth is that the Palestinians attacked Israel for 50 years before there was even one settlement. They continue to attack Israel from the Gaza Strip even after we completely withdrew from there. They are attacking us from Judea and Samaria while they not only demand those territories, but also the right of return to Jaffa, Acre, and Haifa. They back up these demands with murderous attacks directed against us since the establishment of the state,” he also wrote. “These facts prove that the root of the conflict is not ‘the occupation and the settlements,’ but the continuing refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state in any borders.”

B’Tselem responded in a statement, calling the prime minister’s posts “slander.”

“(W)e believe that the Israeli public is worthy of meaningful discussion of the occupation. And, contrary to the complete overlap the Prime Minister establishes between the occupation and Israel, we insist on saying loud and clear: the occupation is not Israel, and resisting it is not anti-Israel,” the B’Tselem statement said.

“At the U.N. Security Council on Friday, criticism of the occupation and settlements was voiced by all: both Israel’s close allies such as the USA, France and Britain, as well as countries which Netanyahu boasts strengthening ties with, such as Russia and China. But the Prime Minister has no answers for the Israeli public, so instead he tries to go after B’Tselem. This will not deter us, nor the hundreds of thousands in Israel who oppose the occupation. We will continue saying the truth in Israel and abroad: the occupation must end,” the statement concluded.

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