PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas greets the audience during a ceremony in Ramallah on December 31, marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah’s founding.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, warned that Israel's decision to deduct funds by withholding tax fees will have consequences, in a statement on Sunday night.
"The Palestinian Authority views the approval of the decision to deduct funds as a robbery of the Palestinian people's money and as a unilateral violation of the agreements signed between the two sides, such as the Paris agreement," Abu Rudaina said in a statement.
"This decision will have dangerous consequences on all levels, "Abu Rudaina concluded.
The PLO Department of Public Diplomacy and Policy said ,"The Israeli government took the unlawful decision of stealing once again Palestinian tax revenues," in a statement late Sunday night.
In response to what they termed "this brazen robbery," Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said, "Israel has committed this act of piracy repeatedly, illegally withholding or confiscating Palestinian tax revenues as a form of shameless political extortion. Recent examples of this piracy include 'punishing' the Palestinian leadership for upgrading the status of Palestine at the United Nations, acceding to the Rome Statute, and holding free and democratic elections with an outcome Israel rejected. Every time Israel undertook this illegal act, it falsely claimed to have a legitimate reason."
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, security officials told the cabinet that in 2018 the PA paid NIS 502,697,000 ($140m) to terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails, their families, and to security prisoners who have been released.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the security echelon to further investigate the scope of the payments, and to adjust the sums to be deducted accordingly.
On July 7, the Knesset passed legislation introduced by Avi Dichter (Likud) and Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) requiring the Defense Ministry to inform the security cabinet of how much the PA pays in “welfare payments to terrorists and their families,” which will then be deducted from the amount Israel transfers to the PA each month.
This legislation followed the passage of the Taylor Force Act in the US, which ended most US assistance to the Palestinians unless the PA stops payments to terrorists and their families, the so-called “pay-to-slay.”
The PA government said earlier this month that the taxes and tariffs collected by Israel belong to the Palestinian public.
“Any deduction from these revenues is nothing but a continuation of Israeli piracy against billions of dollars that Israel has stolen,” the PA said in a statement at the time. “This is also a clear and blatant violation of Israeli obligations in accordance with signed agreements, especially the Paris Economic Protocol.”
The PA also threatened earlier this month that if Israel deducts the funds, the PA will not accept any of the money Israel transfers to it under the terms of the Oslo Accords – more than $100 million a month.
Dichter responded to the security cabinet decision by saying that “the party is over.” This move, he said, “will make it clear to the Palestinian Authority and to [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen: Paying salaries to murderers does not pay!”
The PA condemned the decision as an act of “piracy” and “collective punishment” against the Palestinians. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah warned that the move would jeopardize the Palestinian economy and affect the PA’s ability to pay salaries to its employees on time. Hamdallah accused the Israeli government of waging an “open war against the Palestinian people and their leadership” as part of a plan to “destroy the Palestinian Authority.”
A PA official in Ramallah denounced the decision as an act of “thuggery” and “piracy” and said that the Palestinians will not succumb to Israeli and US blackmail and will continue to provide financial aid to the security prisoners and the families of Palestinian “martyrs.”
Munir al-Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said that the Palestinians will prosecute Israel before international forums over its decision to deduct the revenues.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.
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