PA: Israel’s freeze of prisoner family money ‘declaration of war’

Palestinian leadership condemns new Israeli law to halt welfare payments to Palestinian prisoners and their families.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat gestures during a news conference in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank
'Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people,' Saeb Erekat said [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Palestinian leaders have condemned a “dangerous” new Israeli law that will withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) over welfare payments given to prisoners and their families.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement on Tuesday that the move constituted a “declaration of war” against the Palestinian people who have fought for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He also said the move, which surpasses a “red line”, was going to be confronted with a series of Palestinian decisions.

“All options are open … from the International Criminal Court to the United Nations Security Council,” he warned.

Similarly, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation committee, said the move amounted to “theft”.

“This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat told AFP.

“Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people, and that is a result of the decisions of US President Donald Trump, who supports Israel.”

The decision – passed by the Israeli government on Monday evening with 87 of 120 legislators voting in favour and 15 opposing – will deduct money that the Palestinians allocate to the families of prisoners and others killed by Israeli forces from taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship rallied against the bill ahead of the vote.

Jamal Zahalka, of the Joint List of Arab parties, said on Monday the bill was “despicable”.

“You are stealing from the Palestinian people,” Zahalka said.

The Israeli move deepened a budget crunch already hit hard by US cuts in aid.

The cash-strapped PA, which relies heavily on Israeli tax funds and international aid, has suffered from chronic budget problems for years.

Israel has long pushed for the Palestinians to halt the stipends – which benefit roughly 35,000 families of Palestinians killed and wounded in the conflict with Israel – saying the practice encourages violence.

Among the beneficiaries are families of Palestinian prisoners and others who were killed by Israeli occupation forces.

The stipends total approximately $330m, roughly seven percent of the Palestinian Authority’s $5bn budget in 2018.

Palestinians say the tax revenues, collected by Israel for them under past peace agreements, is their money, and that the PA has a responsibility to all of its citizens like any other government.

For Palestinians, the families are widely seen as victims of decades of Israeli occupation.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies