Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Monday that the PA would take legal action to counter US moves to apply financial pressure on Ramallah.
Malki’s comments came a day after a senior Fatah official, Hussein al-Sheikh, said in an Arabic-language interview that the US has asked international banks to squeeze the Palestinian Authority financially in a bid to pressure the Palestinian leaders to accept the Trump administration’s not-yet-announced peace plan.
“The leadership is following these new American attempts to impose a financial siege on our people, and is looking for legal steps to bring lawsuits against the United States over all these illegal steps on the one hand, while searching for suitable financial alternatives to respond to these punitive measures on the other,” Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio station.
Al-Sheikh told AFP on Sunday that major financial institutions had begun to cooperate with Washington’s bid to “impose a tight financial siege on the Authority.”
According to al-Sheikh, “the sanctions began with preventing the transfer of an Iraqi grant worth $10 million, which was handed over to the Arab League recently. The League has not been able to transfer it because all banks have refused to accept it for transfer to the Authority’s finance ministry or the national fund.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday to begin deducting PA payments to convicted terrorists and their families from tax transfers Israel hands the PA each month.
Calls to cut transfers to the PA have ramped up in recent days following the murder of an Israeli woman by a Palestinian suspect in Jerusalem on Thursday. The Shin Bet has labeled the killing a nationalistically motivated terror attack.
“By the end of the week, the staff work required for implementing the [July 2018] law on deducting terrorists’ salaries will be completed,” the prime minister said, referring to a law that formally went into effect on January 1 that grants the Israeli government the power to withhold tax funds paid by Palestinians and handed by Israel to the PA, up to the amount spent by the PA in payments to incarcerated security prisoners and the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis.
Al-Sheikh said “the American decision is in line with an Israeli decision” to cut the tax transfers, which he said represent more than 50 percent of the Palestinian treasury’s income and constitute about 70% of the current expenses of the PA and the salaries of its employees.
In his Monday comments, Malki called the Israeli deductions “piracy.”
“This is Israeli piracy of part of the Palestinian tax funds on the grounds that it pays salaries to prisoners and families of martyrs,” he said, adding, “the Palestinian leadership intends to bring the issue of this piracy to the General Assembly of the United Nations and international legal institutions to hold Israel accountable and punish it for stealing these funds without right.”