Shtayyeh: Stop Israeli 'piracy' of Palestinian money

The PA Prime Minister said Israel is waging a new war on the Palestinians and called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel.

 Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh during the inauguration of municipals water network projects for villages northeast of Salfit in the West Bank  on September 3, 2022.  (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh during the inauguration of municipals water network projects for villages northeast of Salfit in the West Bank on September 3, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israel is waging a new war on the Palestinian people and their money and capabilities, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

Shtayyeh, who was speaking at the beginning of the weekly Palestinian cabinet meeting in Ramallah, said the sanctions imposed by Israel against the PA because of its diplomatic and legal efforts in the international arena are in violation of the signed agreements between the two sides.

He was referring to a series of sanctions announced by the Israeli Security Cabinet last week that include withholding tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, revoking VIP cards of some senior Palestinian officials and freezing Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank.

The move came in response to the Palestinian bid at the UN to ask the International Court of Justice to issue a legal opinion on Israel’s “occupation.”

Smotrich ordered distribution of frozen funds

On Sunday, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich signed an order approving the distribution of $40 million of frozen Palestinian funds to the families of the victims of terrorism. “There is no justice greater than deducting money from the [Palestinian] Authority that worked to support terrorism and transferring it to the families of victims of terrorism,” Smotrich said.

 PA HEAD Mahmoud Abbas addresses the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, in September. Abbas has described the new Israeli government as a ‘gang of murderers.’ (credit: CAITLIN OCHS/REUTERS) PA HEAD Mahmoud Abbas addresses the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, in September. Abbas has described the new Israeli government as a ‘gang of murderers.’ (credit: CAITLIN OCHS/REUTERS)

The Israeli measures, Shtayyeh said, won’t discourage the Palestinians from pursuing their “popular, political, diplomatic and legal struggle” in the international arena.

Shtayyeh denounced the deductions as “illegal and illegitimate” and said these are unilateral measures that are not subject to scrutiny by any Palestinian or international party and are in violation of the agreements between the two sides.

He urged the international community to exert pressure on Israel to stop the “piracy” of Palestinian money.

According to Shtayyeh, Israel has deducted since 2019 a total of NIS 2b. from Palestinian funds in response to payments made by the PA to the families of prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis.

The total deductions related to health, electricity and water amounted to nearly NIS 1.6m. in 2022, he said. Israel deducts a total of NIS 350m. as a commission for collecting tax revenues on behalf of the Palestinians, he said. In addition, Israel is withholding another NIS 2b. collected as a tax from Palestinians who leave the country through the border with Jordan.

“We don’t barter our right to self-determination and our freedom for money or privileges,” Shtayyeh added, calling on the Arab countries to provide the Palestinians with a financial security net. “These measures aim to undermine the Palestinian Authority, but they will fail. We will stand together in the face of these measures and share the burden for the sake of the martyrs and prisoners and for the sake of Palestine.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)

PA Foreign Ministry statement

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also accused Israel of waging war on the Palestinians.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds Israel directly and fully responsible for the consequences of its open war on the Palestinian people and their leadership and rights,” the ministry said in a statement. “The ministry condemns the open war waged by the right-wing extremist government of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu against our people, their land, homes, properties and holy sites.”

The ministry accused the Israeli government of working to settle the disputed issues with the Palestinians unilaterally. It said that despite the sanctions, the Palestinians will continue their diplomatic and legal efforts “in order to achieve justice for our people.”

Senior PLO official Tayseer Khaled called on the PA to respond to the Israeli measures by rescinding the 1994 Protocol on Economic Relations between Israel and the PLO. The protocol, also known as The Paris Protocol, is the framework establishing the interim-period economic relations between Israel and the PA.

Khaled also urged the PA to impose a total boycott of Israeli goods.