Israel announced that after the recent reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions it will hold up an $94 million cash transfer planned for this week to the Palestinian Authority (PA). (map, from bbcimg.co.uk)
“Israel wants assurances that any money transferred to the Palestinians will not reach the militant Hamas organisation, which is set to become part of the Palestinian government,” Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli finance minister, said on Sunday.
“I think the burden of proof is on the Palestinians, to make it certain, to give us guarantees that money delivered by Israel is not going to the Hamas, is not going to an organisation, is not going to finance terror operations against Israeli citizens,” he explained.
After the surprise announcement of a unity deal between the Fatah and Hamas a few days ago, the Jewish state had threatened sanctions because of the Hamas’ hostility towards Israel.
According to the Israeli government, this deal rules out the renewal of the peace talks which were already in an impasse, and it also threatens Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation in the West Bank.
On Saturday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement “should worry not only all Israeli citizens but all those across the world who want to see peace between us and our Palestinian neighbours”.
According to a statement, on Saturday Ehud Barak, the defence minister, told Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, of “Israel’s concern” over the deal.
Tax and customs fees
The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said that the Israeli officials would also cancel talks with the Abbas administration aimed at updating the tax transfer mechanism. Each year it provides from $1 billion to $1.4 billion, two-thirds of PA budget.
Under the peace agreements of the 1990s Israel collects some tax and customs fees for the Palestinians. And the Jewish state has held up cash transfers several times in the past decade due to concerns that the money was being used to fund attacks against Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority turned toward foreign powers, asking them to stop Israel from blocking the transfers.