RAMALLAH, March 31, 2015 (WAFA) – The Palestinian cabinet, in its weekly session Tuesday, rejected Israel’s unilateral decision to transfer the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues after deducting almost 300 million shekels ($75 million).
The cabinet reiterated its utmost rejection to Israel’s repeated act of withholding PA’s tax revenues and deducting 300 million shekels, describing it as a premeditated crime, a collective punishment against Palestinians, and a blatant violation of previously agreed upon agreements and international resolutions.
It urged the international community to pressure Israel to release the entire sum, and to put an end to this illegal action.
Israel’s decision to deduct millions of shekels from Palestinians came under the pretext of paying for accumulated debts for services provided to the Palestinian population, including electricity, water and hospital bills.
However on March 27, Israel decided to release hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues, which has been withheld since last January following PA’s accession to the International Criminal Court.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approved the recommendation of his Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, and of the Israeli military and Shin Bet internal security agency to transfer the withheld funds. Netanyahu explained that the decision came, “based on humanitarian concerns and in overall consideration of Israel’s interests at this time.”
In the meantime, the Palestinian Finance Ministry stated that the deductions made by Israel to cover services provided to the Palestinians haven’t been bilaterally discussed or ‘agreed upon’ and constitute ‘an unjustified and illegal procedure that could cause complications’.
The ministry affirmed that transferring the tax revenues is not a favor done by the Israeli government and that the Palestinian government rejects any unilateral deductions outside the appropriate calculation mechanism.
Israel has frequently resorted to halting the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues and exploited it as a political instrument intended to punish the Palestinians for their political choices and attempts to secure the establishment of their state through international diplomatic means.
As a result of the Israeli measure, the PA has been incapacitated from fully paying approximately 170,000 public servants on its payroll, which costs between $160 and $170 million a month.
Under the Protocol on Economic Relations signed in 1994, Israel transfers $127 (175) to PA each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through international borders.
Acting to address the financial crisis it is gripped with, the PA has borrowed from local banks to partially pay 60% of the public servants’, December, January and February wages.
Meanwhile, the cabinet expressed its gratitude to all efforts exerted by various countries to get Israel to release its frozen revenues.
It further praised the adoption of three UNHRC resolutions regarding the occupied State of Palestine during the 28th regular session of the Human Rights Council early March.
To be noted, the United States was the only UNHRC member that voted against the three resolutions.
Meanwhile, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi, commented on US’s opposition to the three resolutions, stating that, “Rather than acting in accordance with international law, democracy and human rights, the US made the decision to isolate itself at the expense of Palestinian rights, lives and lands.”
The cabinet further discussed all efforts exerted by the Palestinian government to accelerate the reconstruction process in Gaza, as well as efforts to end the Israeli blockade on the strip.