Israeli ministers to stop meeting Palestinians

Move retaliation for Abbas' bid to join U.N. agencies

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his ministers Wednesday to cut off contact with their Palestinian counterparts, an official said, the latest in a series of troubles plaguing floundering U.S.-brokered peace talks.

The move is retaliation for a Palestinian bid to join United Nations agencies, which the official said was a violation of the Palestinians’ commitment in the peace talks. The Palestinians dismissed the Israeli move, saying both sides rarely meet now as it is.

The latest Israeli-Palestinian spat came as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought and secured a renewal of political and financial support from his Arab brethren at a meeting Wednesday in Cairo. Arab foreign ministers renewed their commitment to give $100 million in monthly aid to Abbas’ government and blamed Israel for the talks’ troubles.

“Israel is one country which does not abide by the rules of international law,” Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told journalists. “They consider themselves above the law.”

Under the peace talks’ terms, Israel promised to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four groups. At the same time, the Palestinians said they would suspend a campaign to sign up Palestine, recognized by the U.N. General Assembly as a nonmember observer state, for as many as 63 U.N. agencies, treaties and conventions.

Abbas signed letters of accession for 15 international conventions after Israel last week failed to release the fourth group of prisoners and renewed a push to build homes in an Israeli settlement in east Jerusalem — the area of the holy city sought by the Palestinians for their future capital.

Under Netanyahu’s order Wednesday, Israeli Cabinet ministers and their ministry directors can no longer meet Palestinian counterparts, though lower-level contacts will continue.