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      Israel to Transfer to PA $100 Million in Withheld Funds

      Israel released $100 million of duties collected on behalf of the PA, which were frozen following their bid for statehood at the UN.
      By Annie Lubin
      First Publish: 1/30/2013, 11:54 AM

      PA President Mahmoud Abbas will receive $100 million in withheld funds
      PA President Mahmoud Abbas will receive $100 million in withheld funds
      Reuters

      Israel announced on Wednesday it had released $100 million of the tariffs and tax monies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which were frozen last year following their unilateral bid for statehood at the UN. 

      According to AFP, an Israeli official said it was a one-off measure to ease the financial crisis faced by the Palestinians and was not a sign that the transfers would be renewed entirely.

      "This decision was taken by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because of the Palestinian Authority's very difficult financial situation," an official at the Prime Minister's office told AFP.

      "But this transfer is temporary and affects only funds owed for one month," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

      "The prime minister did not commit to continue these transfers."

      As part of an interim peace deal, every month, Israel transfers around $100 million in customs duties which are levied on goods destined for PA markets that transit through Israeli ports, and which constitute a large percentage of the PA budget.

      Israel began withholding funds after Abbas unilaterally sought statehood at the UN in November of last year, reasoning that the country would use the money to begin to pay off the $200 million the PA owes the Israel Electric Corporation. 

      The withholding of funds was predicted to last until March at least, but amid desperate cries by the PA of economic troubles and after urgent pleas by Tony Blair, special envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East, it seems that Netanyahu decided otherwise. 

      Israel froze payments to the PA in 2011 as well, when the U.N. cultural body UNESCO granted the PA full membership.