US official: Netanyahu refusal to release PA tax funds due to pressure from right

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 31, 2024, in Ramallah. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 31, 2024, in Ramallah. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skirted a request from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release hundreds of millions of shekels that Israel is withholding from the Palestinian Authority because he doesn’t want to risk a spat with far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a US official tells The Times of Israel.

Blinken raised the issue during their Sunday meeting in Jerusalem, but Netanyahu avoided giving a commitment that he would follow through, the officials say, confirming a report in the Axios news site.

Smotrich has been withholding the tax revenues since May, with US officials and the Israeli security establishment fearing that it could lead to the collapse of the already cash-strapped PA.

The tax revenues make up roughly 70 percent of the PA’s annual budget.

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