Shtayyeh: We received NIS 1.5 billion from Israel

"Crisis surrounding tax revenues remains unresolved"

Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.
The crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over Israeli deductions of payments made to security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis remains unresolved, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.
Speaking at the weekly meeting of his cabinet in Ramallah, Shtayyeh announced that the PA has received NIS 1.5 billion from Israel in accordance with the deal reached between the two sides last week.
“The problem with Israel [over the funds withheld by Israel] has not been resolved until this moment,” Shtayyeh said. “There is no government in Israel that is capable of making a political decision on this matter.”
Despite Israel’s decision to deduct the payments from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, the PA government continues to fulfill its duties toward the prisoners and the families of the “martyrs,” Shtayyeh said, and the PA government will remain committed to paying salaries to the families of the prisoners and “martyrs.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas also said that the PA’s position regarding payments to the security prisoners and families of “martyrs” remains unchanged.
“Our position on the issue of the martyrs and prisoners is firm and won’t change,” he said on Sunday night during a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah. “We won’t backtrack on our position.”
The PA government’s debts to Palestinian banks has reached $480 million, and the banks are facing a serious liquidity crisis, Shtayyeh revealed, adding that a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee was currently discussing ways of resolving all the financial issues between the two sides.
“The unilateral financial measures taken by Israel are aimed at extorting the Palestinians politically,” Shtayyeh charged. “We won’t surrender to this, and we will continue to demand every penny of our money.”
Last week the PA agreed to again accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel, after it initially refused to accept the funds because of the monthly deductions.
Under the terms of the deal, Israeli and PA officials launched discussions on Sunday in a bid to resolve the crisis surrounding the tax revenues.
Shtayyeh said that he and 11 members of his cabinet will travel to Cairo on Monday for talks with Egyptian government officials on “ways of ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
He said that the discussions would also focus on various issues, including the economy, trade, agriculture, education, communications, electricity and customs.
Palestinian officials said that the four-day visit to Cairo comes in the context of the PA’s plan to “economically disengage” from Israel. The plan, announced by Shtayyeh two months ago, calls among other things for replacing Israeli goods with imported merchandise from Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
Shtayyeh said that the PA was “very serious” about holding long overdue elections.
“We hope that the brothers in Hamas will seize this historic opportunity,” he said.
Abbas said in a speech before the UN General Assembly last month that he will set a date for general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem upon his return to Ramallah.
“From the outset, we have believed in democracy as a foundation for the building of our state and society,” Abbas said. “This democratic process was paralyzed by the Hamas coup [in the Gaza Strip] in 2007, which is an unbearable situation. Therefore I have decided upon my return from this international gathering to announce a date for the holding of general elections in Palestine.”
On Monday, Abbas asked the chairman of the Palestinian General Elections Commission, Hanna Nasser, to start preparing to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. Abbas said he also instructed the PA government to start preparing for the vote.
The last presidential election was held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected for a four-year term as PA president. A year later, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the Palestinian parliament. The PLC has been paralyzed since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip 12 years ago.