Israel releases over $1bn of withheld tax funds to Palestinians

Transfer of the money comes weeks after coordination was renewed between the two sides.

Mahmoud Abbas
In May, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stopped coordination with Israel in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank [File: Nasser Nasser/AP]

Israel has released more than $1bn in tax money withheld from the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian minister said, weeks after coordination was renewed between the two sides.

“The #Israeli government transfers all financial dues of the clearance to the account of the #Palestinian Authority, amounting to three billion and 768 million shekels,” Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh posted on Twitter on Wednesday, referring to taxes, including customs taxes, that the Jewish state collects on behalf of the PA.

The Israeli finance ministry confirmed the transfer of 3.77 billion shekels ($1.14bn), Reuters news agency said.

The taxes, managed by Israel under interim accords from the 1990s and usually handed over monthly, make up more than half of the budget of the PA, whose economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The PA has been unable to pay full wages of its 130,000 employees in the past months.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said this week it would pay full salaries once it received the tax money.

In May, the Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying it was in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the already illegally occupied West Bank.

Israel froze its annexation plans in August as part of an agreement to forge diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates.

The Palestinians in November said they were resuming civil and security cooperation with Israel that had been suspended over the annexation.

The announcement came about two weeks after Democrat candidate Joe Biden beat incumbent Donald Trump in the US presidential race.

Abbas has since indicated he will drop his three-year political boycott of the White House.

“Right now we are sending clear messages not only to the Israelis, not only to the Biden administration but also to the Europeans and many others that Palestine and the Palestinians are ready to re-engage completely with Israel,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a November 26 video conference.

Source: News Agencies