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Israeli Foreign Ministry official said country is sending envoy to Washington amid growing rift with Biden administration over six banned Palestinian rights groups

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel is sending an envoy to Washington amid a deepening disagreement with the Biden administration over six banned Palestinian rights groups, a Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Last week, Israel branded major Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, prompting international criticism and repeated claims from Israel’s main strategic partner, the United States, that there had been no no prior warning of this decision.

Israel’s move marked what critics say was a major escalation in its decades-long crackdown on political activism in the occupied territories. The US State Department has said it will seek more information on the decision.

Joshua Zarka, a senior official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told IDF Radio that the envoy “will give them all the details and present them all the information” when he visits in the coming days.

Zarka said he personally informed US officials of Israel’s intention to ban the groups last week, and said he believed Washington wanted a more thorough explanation of the decision.

The rights groups’ move appears to be a test of the relationship between the Biden administration and the new Israeli government, which was formed in June by eight politically disparate parties. The coalition ended the 12-year reign of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s hard-line government enjoyed broad support from the Trump administration, which moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, largely allowed settlement building to proceed unhindered, reduced the financing the Palestinians and presented a vision for the Middle East that sided with Israel’s positions.

The Biden administration mainly restored traditional foreign policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. But with the United States focused on other pressing domestic and foreign issues, the conflict had to take a back seat.

The cranky coalition government has also sought to downplay the Palestinian issue, agreeing not to take any major steps that could threaten its stability. But in recent weeks he has focused more on the conflict, offering a number of goodwill gestures to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and also pushing forward the construction of thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers.

Most dramatic was the decision regarding civil society groups, which rocked the coalition and brought attention back to the conflict and Israel’s decades-long occupation of the territories Palestinians seek for a future state.

Israel has for years alleged the groups’ ties to a militant Palestinian group, but even under Netanyahu’s hard-line government, it was unwilling to label them as terrorist organizations.

The announcement outraged the militant community in Israel, which in recent years has also faced resistance from extremist Israeli governments. In a joint statement on Monday, more than 20 Israeli human rights groups, including some of the country’s largest and most established organizations, condemned the measure, calling it “a draconian measure that criminalizes critical work in favor of human rights workers. human rights “.

The statement against Palestinian rights groups appeared to pave the way for Israel to raid their offices, seize property, arrest staff and criminalize any public expression of support for the groups. Most of the targeted organizations document alleged human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which regularly detain Palestinian activists.

The designated groups are Al-Haq, a human rights group founded in 1979, as well as the Addameer rights group, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development. , the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Farmers Working Committees.

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ABC News

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