Abbas decries transferred tax revenues as incomplete, threatens to take case to ICC

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Israel transferred two thirds of the tax revenues it had withheld for three months, prompting Abbas to threaten resorting to ICC to resolve the issue

PA president Mahmoud Abbas looks on during an opening ceremony of the "Istiqlal" (independence) park in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 5 April, 2015 (AFP)
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Sunday 5 April 2015 17:25 UTC
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Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court as the amount of money owed to the PA in the form of tax revenues was not transferred in its complete sum.

As punishment for the PA’s decision to join the Roman Statue at the turn of this year, Israel proceeded to withhold tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government on a monthly basis, worth $175 million.

“Israel said recently it would transfer [withheld tax revenue] funds, but the amount that was sent was incomplete, as Israel deducted what it billed as debts,” Abbas said, speaking at the inauguration of a new park in Ramallah called “Istiqlal” or “independence.”

“They said they were going to send the money and in the end they did, but a third of it was deducted- why?” he asked.

Israel agreed to release the funds after deducting debts due for electricity, water and medical services. The move came after heavy international pressure on Israel to release the monthly funds, which make up two thirds of overall Palestinian annual revenues, excluding foreign aid.

“We didn’t accept the amount and sent it back,” Abbas continued. “We told them that we either resort to arbitration regarding these funds that they label as debts, or take the matter to the ICC.”

On Wednesday, Palestine officially joined the ICC after The Hague-based tribunal approved its accession bid.

“Now we have a new file to take to the ICC,” Abbas said. “First there was the [summer] war in Gaza, then there was the settlements and now the Palestinian leadership is considering presenting this issue to the court in due time.”

At the end of last month, a statement was released from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which said that it will release the funds based on “humanitarian concerns and an overall consideration of Israel’s interest at this time.” Top Israeli military officials at the time had warned the Israeli government that economic sanctions on the PA would backfire and result in an uprising in the West Bank.

Under an economic agreement between the sides signed in 1994, Israel transfers to the PA tens of millions of dollars each month in custom duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

Although sanction has been imposed many times, it has rarely lasted more than one or two months, except in 2006 when Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections and Israel froze the funds for six months.

Blocking the money also prevents the PA paying its roughly 180,000 employees, which costs almost $200 million a month.