The Palestinian Authority has sent a defiant message to Israel over Tel Aviv’s attempt to freeze tax money used by the PA to pay victims of Israeli violence.
“There is no force in the world that can cause us to renounce our prisoners and the martyrs”, Yusuf Al-Mahmoud, spokesman for the PA government said, regarding Israel’s attempt to freeze Palestinian tax revenue.
Al-Mahmoud claimed that Israel bore full responsibility for violence in the region and said that it was “stealing their [Palestinian] money on the pretext of offsetting tax revenues”.
His comments follow repeated attempts by the Israeli government to use Palestinian tax revenue to gain political concession. The tax collection regime in the occupied territory, which grants Israel the right to collect tax on behalf of the Palestinians and then distribute it, is one of the many oddities to come out of the Oslo Accords.
The Knesset is currently discussing a bill to impound tax revenue that would have been handed to families and victims of violence perpetrated by the Israeli army. Protesters killed and injured in Gaza would be eligible for these payments, which Netanyahu is trying to block.
Israeli sources reported that last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Meir Shabbat, chief of Israel’s National Security Council, to deduct money from the taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in order to pay for the damage from fires caused by “rioter-terrorists” in Gaza sending kites attached to firebombs into Israeli territory.
“The martyr’s fund”, as it is known, has become a highly contentious issue. While Palestinians feel they have every right to use their own funds to provide welfare and social security to families of injured or deceased protesters resisting Israel’s brutal occupation, Israel feels it can exploit the tax situation to pile further pressure on the PA.
In addition to the bill discussed at the Knesset, senior members of the Israeli government have conditioned future negotiations on the PA suspending its welfare programme. Commentators have pointed out that this was another crude attempt to blame the victims. Insisting on the PA conceding on an issue that is a red line in the eyes of Palestinians is an attempt to shift the blame for the ongoing conflict away from Israel, and possibly stymie any future negotiations.