The Israeli government announced on Friday that it will resume transfer of millions of dollars in tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, according to media reports. The transfer had been suspended in January in response to the Palestinian government's decision to join the International Criminal Court.
A statement issued by the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the recently re-elected prime minister, reportedly said that three months’ worth of tax revenues would be transferred after “payments for services rendered to the Palestinian population have been deducted, including electricity, water and hospitalization.”
“Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist elements,” the statement reportedly said, adding that the decision had been made on humanitarian grounds.
Israel collects nearly $127 million a month in customs and other taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The decision to stop transfers of these funds to the Palestinian Authority had aggravated the economic troubles of the already impoverished region, forcing President Mahmoud Abbas’ government to cut salaries of its employees by as much as 40 percent.
The decision to withhold tax revenues had been denounced not only by the Palestinian government, which reportedly likened it to “piracy,” but also by the international community, including the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations.
The latest move comes just days after Netanyahu’s Likud Party won a decisive victory at the polls amid rapidly deteriorating relations between Israel and the U.S. Reacting to the announcement, a U.S. State Department spokesman welcomed the move, calling it “an important step that will benefit the Palestinian people and help stabilize the situation in the West Bank.”
However, the Palestinian Authority has still not been informed of the decision, according to media reports. “Until now we haven't received any money, nor have we officially been informed of anything,” Ehab Bessaiso, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, reportedly said.