Palestinian officials told the Kan public broadcaster Thursday that the Palestinian Authority won’t intensify its response to Israel’s withholding of tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers until at least after the April 9 election.
The decision is believed to be due to the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has limited political maneuvering space to grant concessions to the Palestinians in the lead-up to the vote.
The officials further stated that security coordination between Israel and the PA will continue as usual until the election.
However, a senior official in Ramallah warned that the PA would consider its steps if the withholding of taxes does not end after the election.
“If there is no solution to the crisis created by the Israeli cutbacks in our tax revenues, we will react after the elections, even if that means during the period where there is a transitional government in Israel,” the official said.
Under interim peace deals, Israel collects customs duties and other taxes on behalf of the PA, and transfers the funds to the Palestinians each month. These transfers cover roughly two-thirds of the Palestinian government’s budget.
Last month, the PA rejected its regular monthly tax transfer from Israel to protest Jerusalem’s decision to deduct sums of money the Palestinians pay to imprisoned terrorists and terror suspects, as well as the families of those killed in attacks against Israelis.
Israel had earlier announced that it would withhold over $138 million in revenue, the amount Israeli officials calculate that the PA spends on the stipends.
The freeze of funds was expected to deal a dire financial blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian leadership, already weakened by recent US cuts of more than $200 million in bilateral aid. The authority expects it won’t be able to pay its employees’ full salaries.
Israel says the stipends to prisoners’ families encourage violence. Palestinians describe the payments as an important form of social welfare and say they are responsible for their citizens.