Ramallah, 13 Rabi’ul Akhir 1436/3 February 2015 (MINA) – The Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu announced a decision to freeze the tax funds allotted to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a punitive measure in response to its appeal to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Israeli government has decided to halt the transfer of a 100- million-dollar batch of tax revenues collected this month after $127m collected on behalf of the PA were held back last month, the Yisrael Hayom newspaper said Sunday.
The decision falls in line with Israel’s dismay over Palestinians’ appeal to join the ICC in an attempt to probe Israeli war crimes, Palestinian Information Center (PIC) quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Sources close to Netanyahu told the newspaper that he promised continuous tax freeze until “Israel” forms strong punishment for the Palestinian leadership heading to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
“Abbas has crossed all red lines,” a statement by the Israeli occupation government read.
Newspaper said that the amount retained was the money was January tax revenues, and will be added to the 500 million NIS ($128 m) that Israel had frozen in December, making the amount of Palestinian tax revenues frozen about $228 million.
A few days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestine would join the International Criminal Court in December, and was promised to join on April 1st, his Israeli Counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his country would stop transferring customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority as a punishment to the Palestinian move.
As a punishment, Israeli government on 9 January announced that it would freeze $128 million in Palestinian tax revenues in response to Palestine’s accession to over 20 international treaties and organizations, including the Rome Statute and the ICC.
VAT taxes are earned by the Palestinian Authority and collected by Israel. Timely transfers of the VAT-taxes are essential to keeping economic and social stability in the West Bank.
They constitute 70-percent of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue and finance the bulk of salaries and public services in the West Bank such as hospitals and schools, Palestine News Network (PNN) reported.
The funds for December 2014 were scheduled to arrive during the first week of January. Palestinian leaders say ‘Israel’ has sent no direct communication to their government regarding the suspension of VAT taxes.
Israeli and European parties have warned of an impending breakdown to hit the PA in case Israel continues to withhold tax revenues, accounting for two-thirds of the authority’s budget.
“It is unknown for how long will the Palestinians be able to survive” the newspaper quoted an informed Israeli source as wondering, adding that the PA is expected to fall apart within a four-month-deadline.
Meanwhile, the PA Premier Rami al-Hamdallah said Sunday that a portion of governmental employees’ salaries would be provided as of February in case the PA’s tax revenues are still withheld.
He said international efforts have been underway to have the tax revenues dispatched to the PA at the soonest time possible.(T/R05/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)