Palestinian Authority to reduce salaries as Israel blocks Gaza funds

Ramallah has not accepted any of the tax revenues collected on its behalf because of Jerusalem’s refusal to transfer funds earmarked for Gaza

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh chairs a cabinet meeting in Ramallah, January 29, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh chairs a cabinet meeting in Ramallah, January 29, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday it will pay public sector workers only 60 percent of their December salaries this week as it grapples with the longrunning fallout of Israel’s refusal to transfer tax funds earmarked for Gaza.

Funding to the Palestinian Authority, the body that exercises limited governance in the West Bank, has been severely restricted by the months-long dispute over transferring tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

Funding from international donors has also been squeezed, falling from 30% of the $6 billion annual budget to around 1%, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.

“The funding situation of the Authority is very difficult,” he said, following a meeting of the cabinet.

The funding dispute has been a source of friction between Israel and the Palestinians since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, when Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich refused to release all the funds, accusing the PA of supporting the October 7 onslaught in Israel led by the terror group.

Under interim peace accords signed in the early 1990s, Israel collects taxes on the Palestinians’ behalf and typically transfers them to the PA monthly on the approval of the finance minister.

However, transfers have been stalled since October, when Smotrich withheld around NIS 600 million ($164.5 million) of the total NIS 1 billion ($274.3 million) due for transfer, prompting the Palestinian Authority, which says Gaza is an integral part of Palestinian territory, to refuse to accept any funds.

Footage from the GoPro camera of a Hamas terrorist, on October 7, 2023. (Screen capture/X used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“We cannot accept conditions on our money. We will remain committed to the prisoners and martyrs and to our people in the Gaza Strip, not out of favor, but by virtue of our national, religious and moral responsibility,” Shtayyeh said.

Although Gaza is controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority continues to fund essential areas of the enclave’s budget, including paying the salaries of health workers.

The PA’s announcement came ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has pressed Israel to resolve the budget dispute, which has left thousands of Palestinian public sector workers without pay for months.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs to Doha at Cairo East airport on February 6, 2024, during his Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP)

The dispute over the Palestinian Authority budget coincides with a separate dispute over funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that pays for emergency relief for Palestinians.

Much of the UNRWA budget has been cut off since Israel accused 12 of the agency’s 13,000 Gaza workers of involvement in the October 7 attack. The claims came as Israel faced a genocide case at the International Court of Justice over the war with Hamas, and after years of it calling for the agency to be disbanded.

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