Palestinian Minister Says Israel Has Agreed to Release Withheld Tax Revenues

Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh met with Israeli officials Thursday, following PA's announcement Tuesday that it would resume cooperation with Israel

Jack Khoury
Palestinians demonstrate near the Israeli settlement of Psagot, built on the lands of the city of al-Bireh, against the visit by U.S. Secretary of State's to the settlement, on November 18, 2020.
Palestinians demonstrate near the Israeli settlement of Psagot, built on the lands of the city of al-Bireh, against the visit by U.S. Secretary of State's to the settlement, on November 18, 2020.Credit: Abbas Momani / AFP
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority will receive tax refunds that Israel has been withholding from the Authority, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said Thursday, following a meeting held Thursday between the two sides, marking the resumption of coordinated efforts with Israel this week for the first time since ties were suspended in May.

According to al-Sheikh's statements on Twitter, in the course of his meeting with the "Israeli side" Thursday, "[i]t was agreed to transfer all financial dues" to the PA – a reference to the tax transfers amounting to some 3 billion shekels ($890 million) that Israel has been withholding from the PA, whose economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

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On Tuesday, al-Sheikh announced on Twitter that the PA had agreed to resume coordination with Israeli authorities after the PA had been given assurances that Israel would respect its agreements with the , during "international negotiations conducted by the president."

Credit: Hussein Al Sheikh
Credit: Hussein Al Sheikh

According to al-Sheikh's tweet, those assurances were reinforced at Thursday's meeting, where it was "emphasized that the bilateral agreement signed, which are based on international legitimacy, are what governs this relationship."

In May, President Mahmoud Abbas  and understandings signed with Israel and the United States, affecting both security and civilian issues.

Al-Sheikh also said in his two-part tweet that at Thursday's meeting, the PA delegation had rejected Israel's policies with respect to settlements, demolishment of homes and confiscation of lands – the implication being that no agreement was reached with the Israeli team on the matter. "It was agreed to hold another meeting soon," al-Sheikh added.

Despite al-Sheikh's insistence that "all financial dues" will be transferred, Haaretz has learned that such transfer of funds requires the approval of Israel's government, including the cabinet, and such approvals have not yet been granted.

In addition, it remains unclear whether the sums will be transferred in full, or whether Israel will .

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, Qadura Fares, told Haaretz that the payment of salaries to prisoners and their families is enshrined in Palestinian Basic Law and that there is no intention to amend this law.

Fares asserts that the claims that such payments are made only according to seniority and the type of offense are incorrect and that there are also a number of other criteria taken into account, including whether the prisoner has family members and/or dependents, as well as the prisoner's age and the length of his or her prison term.

Fares added that in any case, the majority of the prisoners receive relatively small sums, that any change to the arrangement would require amending the law, and that as of now, prisoners have not been informed of any such changes.

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