Erakat: Israel Tax Freeze Aims to Collapse Palestinian Authority

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erakat says Israeli decision to withhold taxes after PA ICC application designed to destroy it.

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Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat
Reuters

A top Palestinian Authority official on Sunday accused Israel of trying to topple the PA by continuing its freeze on millions of dollars in tax monies.

Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erakat demanded world action to pressure Israel into releasing the monies which were frozen as a punitive measure following PA unilateral moves nearly two months ago.

"Israel is aiming to collapse the Palestinian Authority with all its institutions, so the international community should do much more than stating what the results of such move might be," Erakat said.

"This money is not Israeli money nor donors' money, this is an unprecedented act of piracy," he railed.

Every month, Israel transfers to the PA around $127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports - revenues which collectively make up around two-thirds of the Authority's annual budget, excluding the hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid it receives.

But on January 2, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suspended the December funds as a punitive measure after the PA moved to join the International Criminal Court, where they could potentially sue Israel for alleged war crimes. That move - along with the decision to pursue unilateral "statehood" at the UN, among other things - is a clear breach of previous agreements the PA signed with Israel, prompting the harsh Israeli response.

The move has put huge financial pressure on the already-struggling Palestinian Authority, prompting concern within the international community.  

"Israel has been doing its best to lead to the PA collapse for years, Netanyahu wants a PA without any authority and now he withholds the funds in order to make it collapse," Erakat accused, demanding the international community do "much more" than merely issuing statements of condemnation.

Speaking in London on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Washington's concerns over the "continued viability" of the Palestinian Authority if it did not receive the funds "soon."

"If the Palestinian Authority ceases... security cooperation (with Israel) or even decides to disband as a result of their economic predicament, and that could happen in the near future if they don't receive additional revenues, then we would be faced with yet another crisis that could also greatly impact the security of both Palestinians and Israelis," he said.  

"That would have the potential of serious ripple effects elsewhere in the region."  

Under an 1994 economic agreement between the sides, Israel transfers to the PA tens of millions of dollars each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

Although the sanction has been imposed many times, it has rarely lasted more than one or two months, except in 2006 when Hamas - the Islamist movement committed to Israel's destruction - won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections and seized control of the Gaza Strip

AFP contributed to this report.








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