(photo credit: Tamar Matsafi)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the threat of Palestinian state recognition at the UN is more dangerous to Israel than Hamas control in the Gaza Strip, as the Finance Ministry denied on Wednesday reports that it delayed NIS 380 million in funds to the Palestinian Authority.
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“The funds are supposed to be transferred on Thursday,” Steinitz’s Chief of Staff, David Sharan, told The Jerusalem Post. “The Quartet asked if the Palestinian Authority could receive the money early, because of [the Muslim holiday] Id al-Fitr, but the Steinitz did not agree.
“The Palestinians are still shooting rockets and taking unilateral steps against Israel, so we’re not going to take unilateral steps to help them,” Sharan added.
However, he explained, “we are not delaying or stealing anything. We will give them their money on time – not a minute before.”
Ha’aretz had reported on Wednesday that the PA had trouble paying thousands of workers their salaries in advance of Id al-Fitr, a celebration of the end of Ramadan, because of Steinitz’s refusal.
Also on Wednesday, Steinitz told Israel Radio that Israel is unquestionably opposed to the Palestinian statehood bid, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has often called a unilateral action that undermines the peace process.
The finance minister also said that it is out of anyone’s power to stop Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from making his bid at the UN opening session on September 20.
This sentiment echoed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who told EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton earlier this week that officials were beginning to work on influencing the wording of the Palestinian petition.
Steinitz, however, took a less conciliatory tone.
“This is a Palestinian attempt to get a state without giving anything to Israel in return – without peace, without security, and without giving up on the demand to return [Palestinian] refugees [to Israel],” he said.
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) protested the Finance Minister’s policy, saying that “Steinitz is behaving like an insensitive commissar. This is how he behaves towards the weaker sectors of society, and this is how he bullies the Palestinians.”
“Steinitz is trying to make up for the harm the tent protests caused to his image by flexing his right-wing muscles towards the Palestinians who are left without salaries on the holiday,” Tibi added.