ABU DIS, May 29 (JMCC) - Palestinian officials warned Israel
Thursday against blocking the transfer of taxes it collects on the Palestinian government’s behalf.
“The Palestinian Authority
cannot sustain itself if Israel implements its threats to stop the tax returns to the Palestinian Authority cabinet,” said Palestinian economy minister Hasan Abu Libdeh
He and other officials said that, without the Palestinian Authority, Israel would be left bearing the responsibility for the four million Palestinians that live in the occupied West Bank
and Gaza Strip
. While Hamas
took control of Palestinian institutions in Gaza in 2007, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank continues to pay civil servants’ salaries in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
The main Israeli settlement
group called last week for Israel to stop transferring Palestinian tax revenues as punishment for the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to ban the sale of settlement products. Israeli minister Silvan Shalom said that the government was studying the prospect.
“Threats from settlement leaders and businesspeople, as well as Israeli ministers and Knesset
members, are a dangerous threat aimed at discouraging us from the campaign to boycott settlement products -- which will not happen,” said Abu Libdeh.
According to the terms of the Paris agreement signed between Palestinians and Israel, the latter collects some 700 million US dollars annually in customs revenues from Palestinian imports through Israeli ports.
Sixty-five percent of the four billion dollar Palestinian Authority budget relies on the tax revenue transfers.
“Our campaign targets only settlement products and not Israeli products,” continued Abu Libdeh. “According to us and the world, settlements are illegal under international law and what is manufactured in them is illegal, as well. We haven’t heard anyone in the world objecting to what we are doing, since it falls under international law
,” said Abu Libdeh.
The Palestinian Authority estimates that Israeli sales in the Palestinian market reach as much as three billion dollars, $500 million of which are settlement products.
Palestinians export $400 million worth of products to Israeli markets.