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  • Palestinians protest against the Israeli decision to trim funds over prisoner stipends, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, February, 2019.

    Palestinians protest against the Israeli decision to trim funds over prisoner stipends, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, February, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 December 2019 (22 hours 16 minutes ago)
Opinion

The total amount of money kept by Israel now equals some 6.8 percent of tax funds owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Israeli security cabinet announced Sunday Israel’s decision to trim around US$43 million in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority (PA), over the financial support the PA grants to the families of slain or wounded Palestinian militants.

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A similar freezing had already occurred in February when the Jewish state approved the freezing of US$140 million for the fiscal year, which meant the withholding of about six percent of the tax revenue levied on goods it collects on behalf of the PA.

Under interim peace deals from the 1990s, Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinians, who put the current sums at US$222 million a month. With diplomacy stalled since 2014, Israel has at times withheld money as a measure of pressure, placing the PA's coffers under extreme pressure.

The total amount of money kept by Israel now equals some 6.8 percent of tax funds owed to the PA. The full remittances make up around half of the budget of the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“For too long, we allowed the PA to pay salaries to terrorists. That party is over,” Deputy Israeli Defence Minister Avi Dichter said on Twitter.

Israel and the United States argue the PA’s policy incites violence. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, said the Palestinians inmates and casualties are the “heroes” of the national resistance and has continued to pay stipends to their families. 

“This (Israeli decision) will cost us a lot,” Abbas told members of his Fatah party in the Palestinian hub city of Ramallah. “But we have rights and we will not be afraid.”

The U.S. passed legislation in 2018 to sharply reduce aid to the PA unless it stopped the stipends. The administration of President Donald Trump ended approximately US$230 million in development funding to the Palestinian people and further slashed hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian organizations and United Nations (U.N.) agencies which aid the Palestinians as a means to pressure Abbas. 

A U.N. report published earlier this year had warned that the PA is facing “unprecedented” financial challenges due to loss of revenue and extreme austerity measures.

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