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Abbas mulls 'new strategy' in response to Israeli tax hold
By JPOST.COM STAFF
09/12/2012
PA president says whenever Israel "is upset with anybody in the world, it withholds Palestinian money"; Arab League ministers meet in Doha, agree to donate hundreds of millions to make up for PA budgetary shortfall.
 
Abbas on Sunday slammed Israel's decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues as the Arab League scrambled to make up for the organization's budgetary shortfalls.

Speaking at an Arab League meeting in Doha, Qatar, Abbas said Israel doesn't have the right to withhold Palestinian money from the Palestinian National Authority, and the move would force them to formulate a "new strategy" in response.

The Israeli government decided to withhold tax revenues belonging to the PA in response to the group's unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations. Interim peace deals task Israel with collecting taxes and customs duties on the Palestinian Authority's behalf amounting to around $100 million a month, on goods imported into the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian news agency Ma'an quoted Abbas as saying whenever Israel is "upset with anybody in the world, it withholds Palestinian money, and they don’t have a right to do that."

Abbas's comments came as the Arab League agreed to donate hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the PA, Al Jazeera reported. "The Qatari prime minister and the Arab League secretary-general will follow up the implementation of this resolution within two weeks," said chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Doha, Qatar.

The aid-dependent Palestinian economy in the West Bank faces financial crisis due to a drop in aid from Western backers and wealthy Gulf states, as well as restrictions on trade.

Abbas also slammed Israel for its decision to continue settlement building, particularly in the controversial E1 corridor connecting Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem. The PA president said Israel must stop construction in order to return to the negotiating table, praising the Arab Peace initiative by Saudi Arabia in 2002 as a simple process calling on Israel to withdraw from Arab lands in exchange for "normalized relations" from all Islamic and Arab countries.

Abbas also said that Hamas and Fatah wanted to overcome their differences. "The reconciliation is dear to us and to the unity of our people, especially in the present time, when we are talking about a Palestinian state and about getting something new," he said, but stressed talks with Israel.

"If we put aside the negotiating table, the alternative would be war," Abbas told envoys at the meeting in Doha. "Are we ready for war? I say no."

Reuters contributed to this report.
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