Israel transferred on Tuesday money to the Palestinian Authority to pay its employees’ salaries, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
The transfer of the money, 200 million shekels, took place just two days before the vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the PA’s unilateral bid to become a non-member observer state.
The transfer was done despite recent threats by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that if the PA goes ahead with its statehood bid, he will work to ensure the entity collapses.
Army Radio noted that Israel has said it would not take extreme steps in response to the PA’s statehood bid but has continued to threaten to freeze the funds it transfers to the PA each month. Despite this threat, however, and despite PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s statements that he does not intend to back down from the move, Israel transferred the funds on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who has also threatened the PA with sanctions if it goes ahead with its bid, told Army Radio on Wednesday that Israel would respond to the move at the correct time and place.
“If the Palestinian Authority thinks it will attack us in the UN in such a harsh way and will continue to benefit from the cooperation with us, I think that some surprises await it,” said Steinitz.
France announced on Tuesday it would vote in favor of the PA bid, and Britain indicated on Wednesday it would only support Abbas in the vote on Thursday if he agreed to talks over a lasting two-state deal with Israel.
The United States reaffirmed on Wednesday that it intends to vote against the PA’s request.
"We intend to vote no.... We think this is a mistake," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We oppose this move altogether."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who personally intervened to pressure Abbas to drop his UN bid, also reiterated on Wednesday that his country would vote against it.
"I think that the Canadian position is very clear: We favor a two-state solution and the way of achieving that is by having the Palestinians return to the negotiating table with a view of coming to a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel," Harper told a press conference.
"We encourage them to do that and we would not support any shortcuts or any other ways of trying to arrive at that solution without such a peace agreement," he added.