PA says it can only pay 50% of civil sector salaries this month as tax funds withheld

Finance Ministry says it is preventing transfer of tax revenues, said to amount to $46 million, citing Ramallah’s diplomatic efforts against Israel

A Palestinian man counts a stack of Israeli Shekels in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 5, 2021. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
File: A Palestinian man counts a stack of Israeli Shekels in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 5, 2021. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

The Palestinian Authority said Sunday it will only be able to pay a part of public sector salaries this week as the Finance Ministry is continuing to withhold tax revenues that it collects for Ramallah, keeping up a squeeze on payrolls that has lasted for months.

Channel 12 reported over the weekend that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich had been holding back NIS 170 million shekels ($46 million) in tax revenue for nine days, in protest of PA efforts “fighting against the State of Israel.” It was an apparent reference to reports that Ramallah has been pushing for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for top Israeli officials for alleged breaches of international law in Gaza during the war against Hamas.

The PA said it would pay Palestinian public sector employees 50 percent of their March salaries on Tuesday after Israel withheld a transfer due for the month of April.

It said the arrears would be paid once the financial situation allowed.

The Finance Ministry confirmed it had been decided not to transfer tax revenues this month but declined to provide details.

The squeeze on public sector salaries, and the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been prevented from working in Israel since the start of the war in Gaza in October, have added to growing economic hardship in the West Bank.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a Religious Zionism faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 30, 2024. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Israel collects hundreds of millions of shekels in Palestinian tax revenue, which Smotrich held up earlier in the war over concerns that the portion of the funds that Ramallah uses to pay for services and employees in Gaza — roughly NIS 260 million ($73 million) monthly — could wind up in the hands of Hamas.

Although Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the rival Fatah faction in 2007, the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah, continues to fund some health and education services in the enclave.

An agreement was eventually reached in February to transfer the payments via Norway to ensure no money is diverted to the terror group.

But in a letter sent last month to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and widely reported by Hebrew media, Smotrich wrote that the PA is an immediate danger to Israel and called on the premier to annex the West Bank if the Palestinians don’t desist from their diplomatic efforts against Israel.

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