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Israelis retaliate against Palestinian leader after push for investigation

The Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet revoked Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki's VIP status when he returned to the West Bank from Jordan today, Axios has learned from Israeli officials.

Why it matters: According to the officials, the unusual act was retaliation for al-Maliki's push for an investigation against Israel in the International Criminal Court. The card allows easier movement and access inside the West Bank and at border crossings.

  • This is the first time Israel sanctioned a Palestinian official since the decision by an ICC prosecutor to open an investigation regarding the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The Israeli government has worked for years to avoid any ICC judgment against its actions in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

Driving the news: Al-Maliki and his aides were held up by Shin Bet when they entered the West Bank from Jordan on Sunday.

  • Israeli officials say Al-Maliki’s VIP status, which was issued by the Israeli government, was revoked this time and could stay revoked if Al-Maliki continues his actions. 

Between the lines: Al-Maliki was returning after a visit to the Hague, during which he met with Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor.

  • According to a statement by his office, al-Maliki asked the prosecutor to accelerate the investigation against Israel, which she announced several weeks ago.
  • Al-Maliki told the prosecutor the Palestinians support the work of the ICC and will cooperate with the court and its staff regarding the investigation.

What they are saying: A senior Israeli official told Axios Al-Maliki is spearheading the Palestinian actions in the ICC that are meant to harm the freedom of movement of Israeli officials and threaten their security.

  • “Such actions are in line with the current relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is why we decided there is no reason Al-Maliki enjoys privileges when he passes through border crossings”, the official said.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials told Axios Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the move.

  • It was one of a series of retaliatory steps Israel will take against the Palestinians for their actions to push for an investigation.
  • A week ago, the director of Shin Bet met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and stressed the Palestinian moves in the ICC crossed the line and warned of retaliation.

The state of play: Two weeks ago the ICC prosecutor sent a formal letter to Israel and the Palestinians, announcing the investigation. Both parties have 30 days to respond and tell the prosecutor if they want to hold their own investigation before the ICC weighs in.

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