The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday banned the sale of Israeli mobile phone cards in its West Bank territories and threatened to prosecute any Palestinian who violated the ban.
The decision came less than 48 hours after PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed a law banning the sale of goods manufactured in Jewish settlements in PA-controlled territories.
PA Telecommunications Minister Mashhour Abu Dakka, who banned the sale of the SIM cards, accused Israeli cellphone companies of offering services to Palestinians without having obtained a license from his government.
He claimed that there was a “direct link between the Israeli private sector and occupation, which serves as an arm for making profits.” He called this “classic imperialism and a deluxe occupation.”
He estimated the PA government losses as a result of reduced tax revenue at about $100 million per year. Abu Dakka said that 12 percent of mobile phone users in the West Bank were using SIM cards that gave them access to Israeli networks – a service Palestinian networks are still unable to provide to their customers.
Israeli SIM cards are popular with Palestinians because of the 3G services they offer, the minister explained, noting that Israel has repeatedly turned down requests by the PA for additional frequencies.
Abu Dakka said his decision should not be seen as a boycott measure, but as an attempt to create order in the Palestinian cellphone market.
He said that Article 36 of the economic agreement in the Oslo Accords stated that Israeli companies operating in the West Bank were subject to PA regulations, needed licenses to operate and should be paying taxes to the PA.
He added that since the Israeli mobile phone companies had failed to comply with the agreement, their services were illegal.
Meanwhile, a senior official told AP that Palestinians who violated the
government ban on working in Israeli settlements would be given time to
find other employment before facing punishment.
The law signed by Abbas this week states that violators face up to five
years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. About 21,000
Palestinians work in the settlements.
Economics Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh said the workers would not face immediate punishment.