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Israel freezes tax funds to Palestinians

January 3, 2015

Israel has decided to freeze a monthly transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinians. This comes with the two sides at loggerheads over the Palestinians' application to join the International Criminal Court.

Schekel (israelische Währung)
Image: picture alliance/landov

News agencies on Saturday cited an unnamed Israeli official who said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to freeze a planned monthly payment to the Palestinian Authority (PA) worth 500 million Israeli sheckels ($127 million, 106 million euros).

The funds are from taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians and are crucial to the activities of the PA, including paying civil servants' salaries. The payments are required under the interim peace accords between Israel and the PA.

Israel has frozen the transfer of such funds to express its displeasure on previous occasions, including in November 2012, when President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in his bid to get the United Nations General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state." This made the Palestinians eligible to apply to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israel was angered by the Palestinians' intention to do just that. Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour submitted documents supporting the bid at UN headquarters in New York on Friday, telling reporters that it was aimed at achieving "justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel," the occupying power.

Netanyahu quickly condemned the move, pledging to take "retaliatory steps," without providing details.

Retaliatory legal action

Earlier on Saturday, news agencies cited unnamed Israeli sources who said they were considering legal action over Abbas' decision to reconcile and form a unity government with the Islamist group Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organization.

Israel was "weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere" of Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials, Reuters quoted an unnamed source as saying.

It's not clear what the odds are of the Palestinians' being successful in their bid to join the ICC. A statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman posted on his website said the documents submitted on Friday "are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps."

pfd/nm (AFP, Reuters, AP)