Rivlin Blasts Netanyahu: Freezing Palestinian Tax Revenues Harms Israel's Interests

President tells closed meeting of Israeli envoys to Europe that Abbas using ICC bid to prevent direct negotiations with Israel.

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President Rivlin at event honoring Jews from Arab lands, on Nov. 30, 2014.
President Rivlin at event honoring Jews from Arab lands, on Nov. 30, 2014.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, telling a closed meeting of more than 30 Israeli envoys to Europe that the move was damaging to Israel.

Two of the Israel ambassadors present at the meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem told Haaretz that Rivlin stressed that the Palestinian Authority's application to the International Criminal Court in The Hague was an attempt by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to prevent direct negotiations with Israel and force it into an agreement on his terms, without Palestinian concessions.

The two ambassadors said Rivlin emphasized that the Palestinian efforts were in violation of the Oslo Accords and that the Israeli government must respond, but with careful considerations that would aid Israel's interests – and not harm them.

"Freezing the transfer of Palestinian tax funds does not benefit us and does not benefit them," Rivlin told the ambassadors. "Using these funds, the Palestinians sustain themselves and [keep] the Palestinian Authority functioning. Israel's interest is a functioning PA."

The ambassadors noted that in his remarks, Rivlin recalled his own experience as a lawyer to emphasize the importance of using caution in such matters. "I would have never filed a claim for compensation that would end up harming me."

Israel last Thursday halted the transfer half a billion shekels ($127.6 million) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in December, following the PA's decision to sign the Rome Statue and apply for ICC membership. The transfer of funds had been scheduled for Friday.

The decision to withhold the Palestinian tax receipts was made at a meeting convened by Netanyahu to discuss Israel’s response to the Palestinian Authority’s application to join the ICC.

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