Abbas warns Israel against withholding taxes, says he may turn to ICC

Abbas warns Israel against withholding taxes, says he may turn to ICC

PA president says he wants to continue peace process, but will go to The Hague if Israel violates existing agreements

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Israel on Sunday not to withhold tax revenues that were to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, saying he would turn to the International Criminal Court if Jerusalem did not honor agreements.

Speaking at the Arab League meeting in Doha, Qatar, Abbas said that if the funds were not forthcoming, the Palestinian Authority would implement a “different type of response.”

He said he was prepared to go to the ICC in The Hague if Israel continued to violate existing agreements.

Israel and the US have warned Abbas that he should not use the Palestinians’ newfound status to turn to the ICC. The PA won nonmember observer state status at the UN General Assembly on November 29.

Last week, the Finance Ministry announced that Israel would withhold NIS 450 million and use the money to offset a NIS 800 million debt to Israel. Some of that money was earmarked by the PA for security forces’ salaries.

In Doha on Sunday, Abbas requested that Arab countries double the funds available to the PA as a “safety net” to $200 million. These funds would reportedly be used, among other things, to cover PA government salaries for the month of November.

In addition to addressing the tax fund transfers, Abbas blasted Israel for its planned construction along the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, as well as its refusal to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative.

Abbas disagreed with Qatari Prime Minister Hamed bin Jassem Al-Thani, who called the peace initiative a failure and called for taking it off the table. The PA president said that shelving the initiative would intensify the regional conflict. “Are we ready for war?” Abbas asked. “Personally, I say I am not.”

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Abbas who, while purporting to be a viable peace partner, nevertheless continued to take steps to reconcile with Hamas, a group that has ”no intention of compromising with [Israel]; they want to destroy the state.”

“It’s interesting that Abbas has issued no condemnation of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s] remarks about the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu noted. “Just as previously he did not condemn the missiles that were fired at Israel [before and during Operation Pillar of Defense]. To my regret, he strives for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran.”

“We want peace but will not repeat the same mistake of a one-sided withdrawal,” Netanyahu said, alluding to the removal of Israeli forces and the dismantling of all settlements in Gaza in 2005. He said the Israeli government wants “real peace with our neighbors” but was “under no illusions” and won’t, this time, “stick our heads in the sand.”

Gabe Fisher contributed to this report.

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