Israel Releases Withheld Tax Revenues to Palestinian Authority

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah.Credit: AFP

Israel will allow the transfer of hundreds of millions of shekels in tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister's bureau announced on Friday.

The revenues, which Israel collects on behalf of the authority, have been withheld for the past four months following the authority's referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for possible war crimes.

The bureau said in its statement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accepted the recommendation of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Shin Bet security service that the revenues be transferred.

Israel will transfer tax revenues that have accumulated since February, less payments for services provided by Israeli entities, including the Israel Electricity Corporation, the water authority and hospitals.

"The decision was made, among other things, for humanitarian reasons and out of an overall assessment of Israel's interests at this time," according to the statement.

The United States welcomed Israel's decision on Friday to release frozen tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

In recent months, Israel has been under intense pressure from the United States and the European Union to transfer the funds, due to the precarious economic situation in the Palestinian territories and out of concern that economic collapse could lead to anarchy in the West Bank.

That same concern motivated Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, his predecessor Lt. Gen. (ret.) Benny Gantz, Shin Bet head Yossi Cohen, the coordinator of government activities in the territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and other senior security officials to pressure for the transfer of the funds.

Netanyahu hesitated to do so during the election campaign, primarily out of concern that it would harm him politically among right-wing voters and enable attacks on him by his political rivals, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

The prime minister's associates indicated to several international visitors in recent weeks that releasing the funds would be easier for Netanyahu to do after the elections.

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