Israel has reportedly rejected an official plea from the French government to resume the transfer of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, and castigated Paris for what it branded an immoral demand.
France sent an official letter to Israel last week, urging Israel to “change your decision to freeze the transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority,” Channel 12 news reported on Sunday. The plea came after Israel announced in February that it would withhold $138 million in monthly payments to the PA to offset the PA’s payments to Palestinians jailed by Israel for terrorism and violence, and to the families of dead terrorists.
In protest of Israel’s move, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not accept any funds from Israel, and the PA has since been paying its officials only a part of their monthly wages. Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, says the “terror salaries” encourage further violence. The PA claims the payments are a form of welfare to families who have lost their main breadwinner.
Rejecting the French appeal, Israel replied that it would maintain its policy. In unusually bitter language, it also reportedly told Paris: “Your request is neither morally nor diplomatically right, and even contradicts the principles of European policy on the struggle against terrorism.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, reiterated that the withholding policy would remain in place, Channel 12 noted.
Last week, a senior PA official reportedly warned that Hamas aims to exploit the economic situation in the West Bank and pay off PA officers and security forces to take control of the territory.
The effort will resemble Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007, the official said, according to a report on Channel 12 news. Hamas ousted Abbas’s Fatah faction from Gaza to take control of the territory in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew unilaterally, and the terror group has ruled the Strip ever since.
“We fear that Hamas will exploit the deteriorating economic situation of our officers and members of the security forces, and pay money to buy them off,” the official reportedly said at a closed meeting this week.
“That’s how Hamas took control of Gaza in the coup in 2007, with bribes paid under the table,” he said.
The Palestinian finance minister in February announced salary cuts for civil servants, days after Israel said it would withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers to the PA.