The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov has asked Israel to release the Palestinian tax revenue that it is withholding to allow the Palestinian Authority to combat the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Mladenov met with Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to discuss coordination with the PA to mitigate the negative impact of the virus. “Very encouraging meeting with [Moshe Kahlon] on the steps that Israel is taking in coordination with the Palestinian Authority to alleviate the negative socio-economic impact of Covid-19,” he tweeted after the meeting. “The UN has called on all sides to cooperate in a time of crisis.”
Earlier, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh held a teleconference meeting with Mladenov and a number of international officials to discuss what the Palestinians need during the crisis. A political source familiar with the details told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the officials supported the government’s efforts to overcome the virus and stressed the need for Israel to release the Palestinian tax revenue.
Since 2019, Israel has been withholding nearly $140 million of such revenue under the pretext that the funds are used to support families of Palestinians who commit hostile acts against the occupation state. This has created a serious deficit in the Palestinian budget, which has now been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Palestinian government says that it needs $137 million to combat the virus, while the economy is expected to suffer nearly $3.8 billion in losses due to the associated lockdown.