Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Assertions that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse because Israel is withholding the monthly tax revenue it collects and transfers to Ramallah are exaggerated, Israeli officials said Sunday.
The officials were responding to consistent claims from top US and EU officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, that if the money is not transferred soon the PA may fall apart or stop its security cooperation with Israel.
Kerry, during a press conference Saturday in London, said he discussed with his British counterpart Philip Hammond “concerns that we share about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon.”
“If the Palestinian Authority ceases or were to cease, security cooperation – or even decide to disband as a result of their economic predicament, and that could happen in the near future if they don’t receive additional revenues – then we would be faced with yet another crisis that could also greatly impact the security of both Palestinians and Israelis,” he said. “And that would have the potential of serious ripple effects elsewhere in the region.”
One Israeli official said Jerusalem, which has held up two monthly payments and the transfer of some $200 million since the beginning of the year in response to the PA joining the International Criminal Court and initiating proceedings against Israel, has done an assessment and concluded that while “there is pressure on the PA,” there is “time” and the PA is not on the verge of collapse.
“We believe that people should focus on what brought about this situation, which is the PA breaking fundamental commitments to the peace process by going to the UN Security Council and the ICC,” the official said. He added that Israel could not be expected to sit idly by as the PA wages “diplomatic warfare “ against it.
According to the official, Israel’s response has so far been “very measured,” adding that the funds are being held in escrow and not being used to pay the PA’s large water and electricity bills, a move that would be “irreversible.”
The current steps, however, are reversible, he said, without indicating what steps the PA would have to take to ensure the renewed flow of tax revenue.
The next transfer is scheduled for the first week of March, but it is very unlikely the funds would be released then so close to the March 17 elections.