After Palestine was accepted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at the end of October, the Israeli government decided to punish Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and stop transferring the tax money it collects for the Palestinians.

At issue is the approximately $100 million a month that Israel collects in taxes and customs duties on the PA's behalf under the terms of the Oslo Accords. These funds go to pay salaries of PA government employees, in particular members of the PA security apparatus, which is responsible for, among other things, foiling terror attacks against Israel stemming from the West Bank.

On Monday evening, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded that the money be released. Netanyahu's bureau only reported that the two had spoken about Iran, preferring not to mention Clinton's demand.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Netanyahu and also demanded that he immediately release the PA funds. Last weekend, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called his Israeli counterpart, Ya'akov Amidror, and explained that the U.S. administration expected the funds to be released immediately. On Monday morning Netanyahu met with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who also told Israel to release the tax money.

All these requests came up against a wall of Israeli recalcitrance. Netanyahu made it clear that he did not have a majority in the inner cabinet or in his Forum of Eight to make such a move. He even explained that there would be no decision on the matter until the results were in from the meeting in Cairo between Abbas and the head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal, about setting up a Palestinian unity government.

In the background is also Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's threat to dismantle the coalition if the funds were released, and the stubborn opposition to doing so from within the Likud.

None of Netanyahu's reasons are relevant or legitimate. The money is Palestinian money, and it must go to the Palestinians. The fact that Israel collects these funds is a technicality, and doesn't justify acts of abuse and revenge.

Concern for the Likud primaries results and the struggle with Lieberman over right-wing votes are putting Israel's national security at risk and making a third intifada more likely.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: לשחרר את הכסף