The Palestinian Authority is urging Palestinians to stop using the Israeli cellular companies Pelephone, Orange, Cellcom and Mirs.

But PA Communications Minister Mashhour Abu Daqqa told a press conference in Ramallah yesterday that this is not political boycott. Rather, he said, it is an attempt to regulate the PA's cellular communications market.

Abu Daqqa told reporters that the Israeli companies operate in PA-controlled areas without a license, in violation of Palestinian law and the Oslo Accords. Moreover, he said, the companies do not pay any taxes to the Palestinian Authority.

According to World Bank estimates, Abu Daqqa said, each company should be paying the PA $10 million a year for licenses alone, while other revenue from the companies should be adding $100 million annually to the PA's coffers.

Any Palestinian company that provides services to Israeli operators will face legal action, he added.

Abu Daqqa also slammed the Israeli companies for their relations with the military authorities, and particularly the Civil Administration, which prevents Palestinian companies from placing antennas in Israeli-controlled areas. Effectively, the minister said, this means any Palestinian carrying a Jawwal or Wataniya cell phone is unable to use it in what the Oslo Accords term Area C - which constitutes a majority of the West Bank - or in East Jerusalem.

Moreover, Israel will not allow the two companies to offer third-generation services, he said.

Abu Daqqa estimated that Israeli companies control 12 percent of the Palestinian cellular market. He said the situation is simply a form of "economic colonization," which is lucrative for the Israelis, while Palestinian mobile phone companies are not able to do the same sort of trade in Israel.

Asked whether the PA would like to formalize a relationship with the Israeli operators and offer them licenses, Abu Daqqa responded that he would prefer the companies to operate with licenses rather than without.

National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said the Palestinian effort contradicted the spirit of peace-making.