Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at FADC 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The inner cabinet decided Wednesday to release $100 million in
Palestinian tax revenue
that Israel has been withholding since the beginning of the month. The
decision applied to the funds meant to be transferred in October and
November, Israel Radio reported.
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced opposition from Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, who has come out unequivocally against the move, saying Monday his
Israel Beiteinu party would “do everything possible” to prevent the transfer of
the funds. Lieberman made clear, however, that despite his objections, his party
would not break up the coalition over the issue.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Wednesday praised the government's " important decision" to release the hold on the tax revenues.
"This is Palestinian money which is critical to sustaining the PA and
should be transferred on a regular and predictable basis in line with
previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Withholding these funds only
benefits those who oppose peace and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation,"
Blair said in a statement.
"I have discussed the importance of a smooth transfer of revenues with
Prime Minister Netanyahu and other ministers in the Israeli government
on many occasions, as have others in the international community, and
have urged him repeatedly to transfer these funds without delay," he added.
Netanyahu told the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he supported
transferring the money now because the situation with the Palestinians had
“calmed down,” and the Palestinian Authority has at least temporarily put a hold
on seeking statehood recognition in various UN bodies.
The decision to
freeze the money
, which according to EU numbers makes up some 30 percent of the
budget, was taken at the beginning of the month after UNESCO voted to accept
the Palestinians as a full member. In addition to freezing the funds, Israel
also decided to react to that move by accelerating the building of some 2,000
housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, as well as in Efrat and
According to government sources, Netanyahu believes that
if the PA returns to its proactive efforts at the UN, Israel could once again
freeze the funds. Under the terms of the Oslo agreements, Israel collects the
tax money each month and transfers it to the PA. Netanyahu said in the
Knesset that Israel ultimately doesn’t want to see the PA fail.
minister has come under intensive international pressure over the past couple of
weeks to transfer the money, with one argument being that the funds pay the
salaries of the PA security apparatus, and it is in Israel’s interest for that
apparatus to continue functioning.
In the past week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, Blair and other world leaders
called on Netanyahu to renew the transfers.
Israel froze the funds a number of
times during the height of the Second Intifada as a way of placing pressure on