The Israeli government has conditioned the introduction of a second cell phone provider in the West Bank on one little thing: the Palestinian Authority withdrawing its request that the International Criminal Court investigate alleged war crimes during Israel’s assault on Gaza early this year.
Tensions are mounting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following Ramallah’s call on the International Court at The Hague to examine claims of “war crimes” that the IDF allegedly committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The issue is already weighing in on the relations between the leadership of Israel’s defense and security establishment with their counterparts in the West Bank, and is part of a growing list of Israeli complaints about the behavior of PA officials.
Meanwhile, Israel has warned the Palestinian Authority that it would condition permission for a second cellular telephone provider to operate in the West Bank—an economic issue of critical importance to the PA leadership—on the Palestinians withdrawing their request at the International Court.
The issue of a second cellular provider is at the center of talks between the PA, the international Quartet, and Israel, and has been ongoing for some months. Currently the sole provider is Pal-Tel, and the PA prime minister, Salam Fayyad, considers the introduction of another carrier as an important step in improving the civilian infrastructure in the West Bank. The project is central to Watanya, the company that is set to serve as the second provider, and profits are expected to be substantial.
However, if the project is not approved by October 15, the PA will be forced to pay a penalty estimated at $300 million, the sum that has already been invested in licensing and infrastructure.