Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a ceremony marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah's founding, in Ramallah, December 31, 2018.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority is studying the possibility of lodging complaints against Israel with international courts over the recent decision to deduct half a billion shekels from tax and tariff revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA because of its financial aid to the families
of security prisoners and terrorists.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki and Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara met in Ramallah on Thursday with EU diplomats and briefed them on the consequences of the Israeli decision.
The two officials warned that the Israeli decision would have a negative impact on the Palestinian economy and vowed that the payments to the families of the prisoners and “martyrs” will continue.
Malki and Bishara held a press conference after the meeting, during which they condemned the Israeli move and called on the international community to pressure Israel to rescind its decision.
The PA is now in the process of determining which international courts are authorized to look into Palestinian complaints against Israel for violating international laws and bilateral agreements (between the Palestinians and Israel), Malki said.
Referring to the Israeli law that was passed in 2018 to deduct payments to prisoners and terrorists from roughly $130 million in monthly tax and tariff revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA, Malki said: “The Israeli law is an internal Israeli law that does not concern us. Israel must abide by the international laws and bilateral agreements, which surpass commitment to internal laws.”
Malki said that the PA leadership on Wednesday sent a letter to Israel, notifying it of its refusal to accept any incomplete payment.
The meeting with the EU diplomats, he said, came at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to brief them on the repercussions of the “illegal Israeli decision.” The EU, he added, bears responsibility because it was present when the agreements were signed between the Palestinians and Israel.
“France bears a moral responsibility with regards to the implementation of the protocol,” he added.
The Protocol on Economic Relations, which was signed between the PLO and Israel, regulates the relationship and interaction between the two sides in six fields: customs, taxes, labor, agriculture, industry and tourism.
Malki claimed that the Israeli move, together with decisions taken by the US administration, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and halting US financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
(UNRWA), were aimed at forcing the Palestinians to accept US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “deal of the century.”
Bishara, the Finance Minister, said during the press conference that the PA will pay its employees on time despite the Israeli decision to deduct half a billion shekels from the revenues. However, the employees will not receive full salaries, he said.
PA pensioners and families of security prisoners and “martyrs” will continue to receive full payments, Bishara added.
“The coming weeks will be very difficult for the Palestinian Authority, which will deal with the issue of the salaries with wisdom and fairness,” he said. PA employees whose salaries are high will not receive full payments, Bishara said. On the other hand, he said, those whose salaries are low will receive full payments.
“We won’t abandon the families of the prisoners and martyrs under any circumstances,” he said. “The phenomenon of the families of prisoners and martyrs and the wounded has been a cancer to Palestinian society for more than 50 years. A quarter of the Palestinian people have entered Israeli prisons, and 99.7% of those who were tried before military courts have been convicted.
They are being imprisoned outside of their homeland in violation of international conventions. This is a crime committed by Israel.”
Bishara said he and Malki told the EU representatives that the Palestinians cannot understand Israel’s “sudden” decision to deduct the payments from the tax and tariff revenues. The Israelis, he said, have been aware of the payments to the families of the prisoners and “martyrs” for more than 20 years. During meetings with the Palestinians in the past 20 years, the Israelis never raised the issue, Bishara pointed out.
If implemented, the Israeli decision will seriously impact the PA’s general budget and increase its deficit from $450 million to $600 million, Bishara said.
“This is a challenge that we are confident that we will be able to overcome,” he added. “The new Israeli decision will further complicate matters for us.”
In wake of the Israeli decision, Bishara said, the PA may have to revise its economic ties with Israel. The PA, he added, may also consider boycotting Israeli products in response to the Israeli decision.
The EU issued a statement saying that it has been in touch with both parties, and expressed their expectation that economic and fiscal agreements between the two sides should be “fully implemented.” The statement said that the PA should continue to accept the tax transfers, “which does not constitute a legal or political endorsement of Israeli deductions.”
In addition, the EU “will continue to raise its concerns regarding the nature of the Palestinian system of payments to detainees and families of so-called ‘martyrs.’ We expect genuine commitment from both sides towards a peaceful and negotiated two-state solution, including the need to oppose incitement.”
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