Saturday, January 3, 2015 10:17 pm
Israel is delaying the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their application to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), an official confirmed Saturday.
This came after sources close to an Israeli government official told AFP earlier that Israel is considering filing war crimes suits overseas against Palestinian leaders in response to their ICC application.
Haaretz daily, citing an unidentified official, said the tax move involves $127 million (106 million euros) in VAT and customs duties on goods for the Palestinian territories that pass through Israel.
“The funds for the month of December were due to pass on Friday, but it was decided to halt the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move,” the paper quoted the official as saying.
Another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the report to AFP but would say no more.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah complained Friday that the money had not been received and the finance ministry said the delay would make it hard to pay civil servants’ salaries.
The measure is in response to Friday’s Palestinian application to join the ICC and press war crimes charges against Israel there.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the freeze was a war crime.
“This decision is a new Israeli war crime, but we won’t back off in the face of those pressures,” he told AFP.
Israel has repeatedly delayed payments to the Palestinians to signal its displeasure.
It did so in 2012, after they won a UN vote recognising Palestine as a non-member state.
And it employed the tactic twice in 2011 –after president Mahmud Abbas announced reconciliation with Islamist militant group Hamas and after the Palestinians won admission to UNESCO.
Under the terms of an economic agreement between the sides signed in 1994, Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority tens of millions of dollars each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The tax revenues make up around two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget, excluding foreign aid.