World, Middle East

Palestinians decry Israeli decision to withhold taxes

Israel collects roughly $175 million in taxes each month on behalf of Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority

Palestinians decry Israeli decision to withhold taxes

RAMALLAH, Palestine

Palestinians have denounced an Israeli decision to withhold millions of dollars in tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"The Israeli cabinet decision to cut the PA tax fund, which is drawn from [taxes collected from] the Palestinian people, is despicable,” prominent Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouthi told Anadolu Agency.

Barghouthi, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative movement, went on to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet as “the most racist government in the world”.

The Israeli decision to withhold tax revenues, he said, “represents a clear violation of all past agreements signed between the Palestinians and the occupation authorities”.

Describing the move as “daylight robbery”, Bargouthi urged the PA “to cancel all its agreements with Israel, activate the popular resistance, support the boycott movements and prosecute Israel at an international court for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinians”.

Bassam al-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for his part, said that Israel “acts in flagrant disregard for international laws and conventions”.

Qais Abu Laila, another PLO member, likewise blasted the Israeli move.

“With this decision, Israel punishes the Palestinian people twice,” Abu Laila told Anadolu Agency. “First, when its army arrests them from their homes in the middle of the night; and second, when it punishes their families by taking their money.”

Israel, he added, “has consistently proved itself to be a rogue state that does not recognize international law. The world must put an end to this.”

On Sunday, Israel’s security cabinet announced its decision to withhold half a billion Israeli shekels (roughly $140 million) of taxes collected on behalf of the PA.

According to the Israeli prime minister’s office, the PA paid out roughly this amount last year to Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails and their families.

Last July, the Knesset passed a law requiring that the Defense Ministry provide the cabinet with the amount that the PA pays out to prisoners and their families with a view to withholding the same amount in Palestinian tax revenue.

On Monday, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, in an interview with Palestine Radio, accused Israel and the U.S. of “seeking to destroy the Palestinian Authority”.

Israel collects roughly $175 million each month in taxes on Palestinian import and export activities on behalf of the PA, for which tax revenue represents the main source of income.

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