Abbas Doubts Israel Vow to Unfreeze Tax Funds

Palestinian Authority chief says he doesn't believe Israel will follow through on Netanyahu pledge to release tax monies.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
STF/Flash 90

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday he doubted Israel's willingness to unblock hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes a day after it promised to do so.

"They've announced they will release the money, but so far they have unlocked nothing," Abbas told an Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  

"Maybe they will impose a thousand and one conditions before doing so and guaranteeing not to freeze the funds again."

On Friday, Israel said it would release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax funds it has withheld from the Palestinian Authority as retaliation to the PA's move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said revenues accumulated over three months, frozen since January, would be transferred after normal deductions for services.

"They are collecting this money in our name, and charging a three percent service fee," Abbas said Saturday.

"They collect $100 million (91.7 million euros) and take $3 million. If they decide to deprive us of the funds by blocking them it still makes no difference to them," he said.

Netanyahu's office did not say whether Israel would resume the normal monthly payment of around $127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian Arab markets that transit through Israeli ports.

The Jewish state has not quantified the amount to be transferred, but has did say it would deduct debts due for services such as electricity, water and medical care.

Israel's move, which was welcomed by the United States, comes just ahead of the PA formally becoming members of the ICC on Wednesday.  

They will then be able to proceed with legal action against Israeli officials at the court based in The Hague.  

The PA have said they intend to pursue "war crimes" allegedly committed by Israel during last summer's war with Islamist terrorists in Gaza, as well as the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

But some analysts have warned any such charges could backfire, with the PA and other Palestinian Arab factions facing charges of their own over gross human rights violations committed against Israeli civilians.

AFP contributed to this report.