Israel, PA agree on transfer of frozen tax monies

Jerusalem to release $471m next week despite Palestinian move to join International Criminal Court

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Illustrative photo of a bustling Manara Square in downtown Ramallah. (Photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a bustling Manara Square in downtown Ramallah. (Photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Israel agreed Friday to release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian official told the Times of Israel Saturday, after Jerusalem had since early January delayed the transfer of funds as a punitive measure following the Palestinian initiative to join the International Criminal Court.

The agreement was reached following a meeting between the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein a-Sheikh with the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for Middle East peace efforts, welcomed the deal as an important step “in the right direction.”

Last month, Israel indicated it would release the frozen funds, but the payment remained held up over a dispute regarding the size of the PA’s unpaid electric bill. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to have Israel deduct electricity costs and said that if the issue remained unresolved, he would turn to The Hague.

According to a-Sheikh, Israel will transfer the tax monies owed for the months of March and April without deducting the PA’s debt due for electricity, water and medical services. A-Sheikh added that the rest of the money owed by Israel for the months of December to February would be transferred with a deduction of the said costs.

The transfer of about $471 million from Israel to the PA will take place Sunday or Monday, a-Sheikh said.

A special committee comprised of Israeli and Palestinian officials is set to convene in the near future in order to resolve all remaining debt claims between the two sides, he added.

Under an economic agreement 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. Israel has imposed a freeze on the transfer in the past, though the sanction has rarely lasted more than one or two months.

Blocking the money prevents the PA from paying its roughly 180,000 employees, which costs almost $200 million a month.

The Palestinians officially joined the ICC on April 1. They have said they intend to pursue war crimes allegedly committed by Israel during last summer’s war in Gaza, as well as charges over Israel’s settlement building policy.

AFP and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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