US, Rivlin oppose tax freeze on Palestinians for ICC bid

State Department warns move ‘raises tensions’; President Rivlin says it is not ‘useful,’ urges sanctions ‘in line with Israeli interests’

US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki (screen capture: YouTube)
US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki (screen capture: YouTube)

The United States said Monday it opposes a move by Israel to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in retaliation for its bid to join the International Criminal Court.

“We’re opposed to any actions that raise tensions. And obviously, this is one that raises tensions,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to the freeze on revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority, which was implemented on Saturday.

Israel imposed the freeze after the Palestinian Authority signed documents to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and threatened further retaliatory action.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend and a US team has been in touch with Palestinian leaders.

“What we are trying to avoid here is a back and forth tit-for-tat,” Psaki said.

The freeze involves half a billion shekels in tax revenue, or about $127 million. The tax revenues make up two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget, excluding foreign aid.

President Reuven Rivlin also said that he was against the freeze.

“Freezing taxes cannot be useful either for Israel, or for the Palestinians,” Rivlin told ambassadors accredited to Israel in a speech Monday.

In his talk, Rivlin said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “continues to reject direct negotiations and tries to impose a deal by force,” adding that such an approach “warrants sanctions.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaking at Kafr Kassem Sunday, October 26 (photo credit: Courtesy/ President's spokesman)
President Reuven Rivlin speaking at Kfar Kassem, October 26, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy president’s spokesman)

“Sanctions against the PA should be in line with Israeli interests, and a tax freeze is not,” Rivlin said.

The Palestinians’ ICC bid is firmly opposed by Israel and the United States, and follows a failed draft UN Security Council resolution calling for a final peace deal and an imposed Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by the end of 2017.

Israeli officials suggested on Sunday that the tax freeze was only the first of a series of punitive measures it could take against the Palestinian government.

The Palestinians moved to join the court after suffering a defeat in the UN Security Council earlier in the week, which rejected a resolution that called on Israel to pull out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem within three years.

On Thursday, Abbas asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes allegedly committed during the 50-day war with Hamas and other Gaza terror groups last summer.

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