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As the PA continues with its belligerence, Israel is hitting back where it hurts – in the pocket – by withholding NIS 500 million in tax funds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at special meeting on Thursday. (Photo: Haim Zach/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at special government meeting on Thursday. (Photo: Haim Zach/Flash90)

Israel announced on Saturday night that it was withholding NIS 500 million (about $127 M) in tax funds it had collected on behalf the Palestinian Authority (PA) in December.

Israel decided on this move in retaliation for the PA’s bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to charge the Jewish State with “war crimes.”

The PA officially submitted its request to join the ICC on Friday, a move viewed as a diplomatic declaration of war by Israel, and by the U.S. as a damaging move.

Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz , for the second time, called on Sunday for the dismantling of the PA: “If the PA doesn’t take a step back I think we need to take much more stringent steps, up to the point of gradually dismantling the PA. It is inconceivable that we are lending support to this authority,” he told Israel’s IDF Radio.

On Thursday, Netanyahu, following a special government meeting on the subject, said: “We expect the International Criminal Court to reject outright the Palestinian Authority’s hypocritical act because the Palestinian Authority is not a state. It is an entity in alliance with a terrorist organization, Hamas, which perpetrates war crimes. The State of Israel is a nation of laws with a moral army that upholds international law. We will defend the soldiers of the IDF just as they defend us.”

Israel, which collects taxes for the PA as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, has in the past frozen PA assets twice in retaliation for its anti-Israel actions.

Use the Money to Pay PA Debts

Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom called on Israel to use the frozen PA assets to pay off its enormous NIS 1.4 billion (over $360 million) debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

“Following the decision to freeze half a billion shekels in Palestinian tax money, I have asked that the funds be transferred to cover the Palestinian debt to the IEC, which continues to grow every month,” Shalom wrote on his Facebook page. “It is unthinkable that the people of Israel will pay the Palestinian debt, and we will ensure that the Palestinians will pay their debt to the last shekel,” he declared.

U.S. Sanctions Against the PA?

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator.(Photo: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator.(Photo: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

The U.S. had condemned the Palestinian move to join the ICC, and a State Department official told Reuters that this move may have implications on American aid to the PA. “It should come as no surprise that there will be implications for this step, but we continue to review. US assistance to the Palestinian Authority has played a valuable role in promoting stability and prosperity not just for the Palestinians, but also for Israel as well.”

The Palestinians responded with rage, calling the move an act of piracy and claiming the move constituted a “war crime.”

“This decision is a new Israeli war crime, but we won’t back off in the face of those pressures,” PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP. He further threatened that if Israel does not deliver the money within days, the PA will dissolve itself and hand responsibility over the Palestinian population to Israel.

By: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel