Ab­bas threat­ens to turn to the ICC over mil­lions of dol­lars held by Is­rael

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas threat­ened Sun­day to turn to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court over Is­rael’s re­fusal to fully re­lease hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in tax monies owed the Pales­tinian Author­ity.

In early Jan­uary, Is­rael froze the monthly trans­fer of funds it col­lects on be­half of the PA as a puni­tive mea­sure af­ter the Pales­tini­ans moved to join the ICC.

But on Fri­day, Is­rael agreed to re­lease the funds af­ter de­duct­ing debts due for elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and med­i­cal ser­vices.

Speak­ing Sun­day, Ab­bas con­firmed that two thirds of they money had been trans­ferred.

“They said they were go­ing to send the money and in the end they did, but a third of it was de­ducted - why?” he asked dur­ing a speech in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah.

“Now we have a new file to take to the ICC, first there was the (sum­mer) war in Gaza, then there was the set­tle­ments and now the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship is con­sid­er­ing pre­sent­ing this is­sue to the court in due time.”

The Pales­tini­ans would not ac­cept any­thing but the full amount, he said.

“We will not take the money un­til we get all of it: ei­ther you give us the full amount or we go to the ICC.”

When the an­nounce­ment was made on Fri­day, Is­rael did not say how much money would be trans­ferred nor whether it would re­sume the nor­mal monthly pay­ment of around US$127 mil­lion in cus­toms du­ties.

The move comes af­ter heavy in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on Is­rael to re­lease the monthly funds, which ac­count for two-thirds of the Pales­tini­ans’ an­nual bud­get, ex­clud­ing for­eign aid.

Un­der an eco­nomic agree­ment be­tween the sides signed in 1994, Is­rael trans­fers to the PA tens of mil­lions of dol­lars each month in cus­toms du­ties levied on goods des­tined for Pales­tinian mar­kets that tran­sit through Is­raeli ports.

Although the sanc­tion has been im­posed many times, it has rarely lasted more than one or two months, ex­cept in 2006 when Ha­mas won a land­slide victory in Pales­tinian leg­isla­tive elec­tions and Is­rael froze the funds for six months.

Block­ing the money also pre­vents the PA pay­ing its roughly 180,000 em­ploy­ees, which costs al­most US$200 mil­lion (170 mil­lion eu­ros) a month.

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