Israel's move to hold half a billion shekels of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority is a war crime, Saeb Erekat said on Saturday.
The decision to freeze the transfer of more than $127 million in tax monies collected in December was made following the Palestinians' recent attempts to join the International Criminal Court, an Israeli official told Haaretz.
Erekat, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and the former chief Palestinian negotiator in the peace negotiations with Israel, told Haaretz that the move was "daylight robbery and an act more appropriate to pirates and not governments."
"This is money that is Palestinian money and therefore the decision of the Israeli government and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to freeze it is against international law and it proves the justice of our request to the International Criminal Court," Erekat said. "What Israel did is a war crime that joins the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people."
Withholding the funds could prevent the payment of salaries to teachers and doctors and prevent the provision of services to the Palestinian people, including women and children, Erekat said.
He added that the Palestinian leadership will meet in the next few days to discuss the implications of the Israeli move. "Let Israel worry about paying the salaries and worry about the daily needs instead of the Palestinian Authority. The time has come for Israel to take responsibility for the occupation," he said.
The PA will also appeal immediately to Arab nations and to the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, as to the implementation of the decision of the recent Arab summit in Doha on providing an economic security net to the PA, Erekat said.
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