Israeli-Palestinian relations, already off to a bad start in 2015, worsened considerably Monday. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said in a statement released by Palestinian news agency Wafa his country’s relations with Israel have reached “a point of no return.”
Erekat blamed the deterioration on Israel's decision at the beginning of the year to withhold tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The loss of that money, some $125 million, has already begun to have economic consequences inside Palestine where Hamas is reportedly having trouble paying its employees in Gaza.
Erekat’s remarks punctuated an especially tense day in the region. Israeli gunboats are reported to have opened fire on a number of Palestinian fishing vessels for straying outside of borders; police dispersed Salafist protestors attempting to storm the French cultural center in Gaza City after Hamas made the unusual decision to permit the Salafis to hold a rally; and late Monday night, a car bomb erupted in Gaza City, destroying a vehicle said to belong to a Hamas security officer.
It is unclear whether anybody was hurt by the blast. A reporter on the ground tweeted the car belonged to Hamas security officer Helmi Khalaf.
BREAKING PHOTO: Car exploded in the Gaza strip moments ago, unknown of injuries, details unknown as of now. pic.twitter.com/BVCF0p4Oyk
â€” Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) January 19, 2015
Though Israel has not commented on its motives in withholding the funds, the move is widely thought to be a retaliation against the Palestinian Authority for trying to gain recognition as a state from the United Nations and moving to join the International Criminal Court.
Palestine's U.N. bid failed to secure enough votes from the Security Council, and both moves have drawn a wide range of reactions. Countries including France, Russia and China expressed support, while the United States and Australia voted against the measure. Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill that would immediately suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it withdrew its request to be added to the ICC.