Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Palestine to resume accepting tax money from Israel

By Yehudit Tzfat - October 10, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [financial crisis]

The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept tax revenues from the Israeli government after rejecting the money for months, officials announced on Friday. 

The PA stopped accepting the funds in February because Israel was withholding an amount equivalent to what the PA gives to families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel. Now, the PA appears to be reversing on their earlier decision as an economic crisis looms. 

After a meeting with Israel’s finance minister, Moshe Kahlon on Thursday, an arrangement was reached to “agree to disagree” on the stipend dispute. As a result of the understandings, around 1.5 billion shekels or $431 million was sent to the PA. Further negotiations on various financial issues are being held this week.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA minister of civil affairs, mentioned, however, that the prisoner stipend dispute remains unresolved.

"The agreement was also on transferring a payment from the #PA's financial dues. The dispute remains over the salaries of the families of #prisoners and #martyrs. We are determined to pay their dues at all costs," al-Sheikh said on Twitter. 

In February, Israel decided to slash five per cent of the nearly $190 million in tax revenues it sends to the PA each month from imports in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip via Israeli imports.

The deducted amount was equal to what the PA provides families of Palestinians jailed for security offences or those killed in the conflict, including slain militants. 

Israel refers to these stipends as “pay for slay” saying the money encourages violence and rewards terrorism. But Palestine asserts those convicted or killed are heroes in the fight for an independent state and their families deserve support. 

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last month, President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to continue the payments. 

"Even if I had only one penny, I would've given it to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and heroes," Abbas said, receiving a whopping round of applause from the audience. 

“We are confident that the international community will not accept Israel’s arbitrary decision to withhold our revenues, and to confiscate a part of it.”

Yet the decision to refuse the transfers from Israel pushed the PA to cut salaries of tens of thousands of civil servants in the West Bank, where unemployment stands at 20 per cent. 

Financial woes escalated for Palestine after the United States passed legislation to reduce aid to the state unless the government ceased the payments. Last year, President Donald Trump’s administration cut more than $500 million in aid to development programmes. The withdrawal of funds came after Abbas loudly objected to Trump’s decision to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel.


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