Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday evening that "the Palestinians won't see one red cent" of the tax revenues that Israel collects on their behalf for at least the next four months.
Lieberman's remarks, made during a Hanukkah candle-lighting event for his party, Yisrael Beitenu in Tel Aviv, were in reference to Israel confiscating some NIS 460 million in tax revenues collected for the Palestinian Authority in November, in order to offset the PA's debt to Israel's Electric Corporation. The move was a response to the UN vote granting the Palestinians non-member state status last month.
The foreign minister said that Israel is not freezing Palestinian tax revenues, but paying off Palestinian Authority debts to Israeli bodies.
"They owe us NIS 1.6 billion," Lieberman said. "In the next four months, we will offset the debt and after that we will decide if we will renew the transfer of funds or not. But the Palestinians should forget about seeing even one red cent over the next four months. This is money they owe us."
Lieberman also discussed the situation in Gaza, repeating threats that he made before the elections in 2009 after Operation Cast Lead, that Israel will bring down the Hamas regime. Lieberman made the comments despite the fact that Israel refused to carry out a ground operation during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
"The world should know – another rocket attack from Gaza will require an Israeli ground operation," the foreign minister said. "This will not be like in Operation Cast Lead, a limited ground operation. This time we will take over the entire Gaza Strip, and pay the whole price. The whole world should not call on Israel to show restraint."
Lieberman repeated his earlier criticism of the European Union on Tuesday, saying that the European foreign ministers' decision against construction in the settlements was "unbalanced and unjustified." Some of the foreign ministers were against adding a condemnation of Hamas' call to destroy Israel into the text of the decision, he said.
"From the point of view of some of the European foreign ministers – the destruction of Israel is apparently something that is taken for granted – I don't want to name names," he said. "The European Union decision shows how much we can rely on those same countries that say that they guarantee Israel's security interests."
The foreign minister's strong statements came after he compared on Tuesday morning the EU’s policy toward Israel on the Palestinian issue to the behavior of European countries toward the Jews during the holocaust. In an interview to Israel Radio, Lieberman was asked to react to the EU foreign ministers’ decision on Monday to condemn Israel for advancing the plan to build in E-1, and launched into a fierce, and perhaps unprecedented attack on the EU.
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