Newspaper article International New York Times

Israel Freezes Tax Revenue Intended for Palestinians

Newspaper article International New York Times

Israel Freezes Tax Revenue Intended for Palestinians

Article excerpt

The move could lead to the disintegration of the 20-year-old authority because it would be unable to pay government workers or provide public services.

Israel is withholding $127 million in tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority in response to its move last week to join the International Criminal Court, further escalating tensions with a step that could have serious repercussions for both sides.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Saturday that the Israeli move could lead to the disintegration of the 20-year- old authority because it would be unable to pay government workers or provide public services. He vowed to retaliate by expediting the petitions to join the court and other international agencies and said Israel "will be held accountable for everything."

"He will be solely responsible for the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem," Mr. Erekat said of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

"It's our tax money. It's our people's money," Mr. Erekat said, accusing Israel of "destroying" the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the decision to withhold the monthly transfer, which was made at a ministerial meeting on Thursday and confirmed by Israeli and Palestinian officials who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

Mr. Erekat said the tax revenue provided the bulk of the authority's $160 million monthly operating budget. It is the first of an expected series of punitive measures in response to a push by the Palestinians to prosecute Israeli officials on war crime charges over the battle with militants in the Gaza Strip last summer and for continuing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"It's not the last step," Gilad Erdan, a minister from Mr. Netanyahu's Likud party, said on Israeli TV Saturday night. …

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