Israel will withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian administration at least until March, in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for upgraded status at the UN last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday.
Israel announced last week that it would withhold some NIS 450 million in tax revenues from the PA as a punitive measure against the Palestinians being granted nonmember state status at the UN. The money will be used toward paying off a NIS 700 million debt the PA owes the Israel Electric Corporation.
Israel claims Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas violated previous peace accords by appealing to the UN General Assembly without coordinating his actions with the Israeli government.
“Israel is not prepared to accept unilateral steps by the Palestinian side, and anyone who thinks they will achieve concessions and gains this way is wrong,” Liberman said on Tuesday night, according to Reuters. “The Palestinians can forget about getting even one cent in the coming four months; in four months’ time we will decide how to proceed.”
About NIS 400 million in taxes and customs duties are collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians every month. The monthly transfers are used to pay salaries to the Palestinian Authority’s civil servants and security forces members.
Israel has already frozen payments to the PA in the past. The last time it took this step was when the UN cultural body UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership a year ago. Following heavy criticism by the European Union, Israel eventually ended up releasing the funds.
After the UN vote on November 29, Israel said it would authorize the construction of 3,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the sensitive E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. The plans have attracted heavy international criticism.