Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that Israel will release tax revenue it has withheld from the Palestinian Authority for the past three months. The tax money constitutes two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority’s budget and Israeli military and security officials reportedly expressed concern to Netanyahu that refusing to turn it over could aggravate humanitarian problems in Palestinian-controlled areas. From the New York Times:
Israel collects more than $100 million a month on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Its impoundment of the money had intensified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The money, collected in December, January, and February, will be transferred minus payments for services rendered to the Palestinian population such as electricity, water, and hospitalization, Israel said.
Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement, “Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist interests.”
Israel froze the revenue after the Palestinian Authority applied to join the International Criminal Court in late 2014. That move by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was condemned by the State Department in January as “entirely counterproductive” and “an escalatory step.” Palestinian membership in the court is expected to be finalized in April.
As Al Jazeera notes, the seizure of the tax funds is not unprecedented: Netanyahu previously choked off revenue flows for three months following a push for United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood in 2012.