Abbas: Tax Freeze Accelerates Statehood Bid at UN
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that if Israel stops the flow of tax funds to the PA because of the unity agreement with Hamas, he will advance his timetable for asking the United Nations for a unilateral declaration of PA statehood, the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency reports.
"If they keep blackmailing us, we'll make September nearer," Abbas threatened in Cairo. "September is the ninth month. If the extortion continues, we will file a request with the UN in the fifth or sixth month of the year."
Abbas' statement is a response to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz's announcement that Israel would withhold tax revenues to the PA if the Fatah-Hamas unity deal was ratified.
"Are you punishing us for unity? We did not break Israeli law. We did not attack Israelis like they attack us," Abbas said n a flight of fancy.
When asked about reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present a peace settlement to American officials during his visit to Washington in May, Abbas said he would refuse any deal with "temporary borders",adding, "we won't accept the presence of any Israeli soldier on Palestinian lands … if there's an independent state, Israel shall not exist in it."
Abbas insisted the PA would not "drop the right of return," claiming he himself was a "refugee."
Abbas indicated the PA would reject further Israeli or US initiatives, saying he is "committed to Arab peace initiatives... to international legitimacy. Our national rights are inalienable."
"The occupation shall end, a Palestinian state shall be born this year," he promised.
Abbas, who heads Fatah, and senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal earlier Wednesday ratified a unity agreement putting their frequently violent four-year schism to rest. Abbas feared Mashaal was trying to take over his position.
Israel Beiteinu, Netanyahu's largest coalition partner, said Wednesday it intends to demand, in addition to the freeze of tax revenue transfers, that Israel's government terminate all contacts and inter-ministerial cooperation to the PA in light of the agreement.
On Sunday, the PA complained it would not be able to pay salaries to its civil servants because of the Israeli government’s decision to temporarily halt the transfer of millions of dollars in tax revenue.