Israel will continue rolling out responses to unilateral Palestinian moves in the international arena, even though the US State Department termed “unfortunate” the government’s plans to deduct funds from monthly tax revenue transferred to the Palestinian Authority, Israeli sources said on Saturday night.
Israel announced Thursday that in response to Palestinian applications to join 15 international treaties and organizations, it would deduct some NIS 200 million the PA owes it for electricity and hospital costs from the monthly tax revenue it collects for, and transfers to, the PA. This announcement followed another Israeli response: a directive from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his government ministers and their directors-general to halt meetings with their Palestinian counterparts.
The purposes of these moves, and others likely to come, is “to save the process,” one government official said. These calculated and measured steps were aimed to show the Palestinians that “continued rejectionism will harm their interests.”
Further steps, he said, will be a “function of what the Palestinians do or do not do. If the Palestinians continue with their unilateral steps, Israel will continue to respond.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked on Friday at her daily press briefing about the “Israeli decision to suspend the transfer of tax revenue to the PA” – an overstatement of the actual government decision.
Saying that the US had not yet seen the specifics or details of what was decided, she added that “we would regard such a development as unfortunate. We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy.”
Meanwhile, US envoy Martin Indyk returned to Washington on Friday, and is not expected to come back to the region until later this week at the earliest. Indyk held four rounds of talks with the Israelis and Palestinians last week in an attempt to find a way out of the current impasse and get the sides to agree on a package deal that would enable talks to continue beyond the April 29 deadline. There will now be a break in those negotiations until his return.
Since November, the Palestinians have refused to meet directly with Israel, without the Americans acting as intermediaries, one government official said.