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Palestinians warn Israel against imposing tax sanctions: sources

Netanyahu urges ICC to reject Palestinian bid to join as PA threatens to suspend security cooperation with Israel over possible restrictions
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) lights a flame to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Fatah movement, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 31 December, 2014 (AFP)

The Palestinian Authority told Israeli officials that it will suspend its security cooperation with Israel if it imposed tax sanctions on the PA for seeking to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ashraf Khatib, an official in chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat’s office told MEE that the PA wanted to "reframe" its relationship with Israel: "In terms of security cooperation, it is something that is being considered thoroughly. Its not something we will announce one day and not do it the next day. We are trying to exert all our efforts on the international community and on our relationship with Israel to end the status quo. The international community can and should play an important role."

The warning comes in anticipation of a move from Israel to halt the transfer of tax revenunes to the PA and to impose restrictions on Palestinian officials.

Israel collects taxes on behalf of the PA, and transfers about $100 m per month, which amounts to two-thirds of the PA's budget.

It would not be the first time Israel halted the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.

In April 2014, Israel imposed sanctions against the PA for joining 15 international treaties and conventions.

And in December 2012, Israel refused to transfer tax revenues to the PA when the Palestinians upgraded their status at the UN to that of a non-member observer state.

Khatib said that letters were sent Thursday to the UN and once the process had been completed, the PA would have the opportunity to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He said once the process was complete, Palestine would be free to take Israel to court on every case that had occurred since 2002, which was when the Treaty of Rome creating the ICC, came into force.

"The jurisdiction of the ICC over Palestine starts from 2002. There is a timeline that will allow us to take any kind of crime committed by the Israelis to the ICC. "

Khatib said that no decision had yet been taken on which cases would go first."The plan is that we will do this in parallel with political matters and hopefully we will not have to use the legal matters.  Once we have completely joined the ICC, we will have the opportunity to take Israel to court for its war crimes. There are other cases we can take on the illegal settlements. But there has not been a decision today to do that."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday urged the ICC to reject the Palestinians' request to join the international body because they did not rank as a state.

"We expect the ICC to reject the hypocritical request by the Palestinian Authority, which is not a state but an entity linked to a terrorist organisation," he said in a statement, referring to Hamas.

Netanyahu's statement followed talks which the Israeli premier chaired at the defence ministry to discuss a response to the Palestinian move.

PA president Mahmud Abbas signed the request to join the ICC on Wednesday, after the UN Security Council rejected a resolution to end the Israeli occupation. 

"This [joining the ICC] is part of a strategy that attempts to create a new dynamic and change the course of action that has allowed Israel to unilaterally destroy chances for peace," Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO executive committee, told MEE on Thursday.

"The basis of any moves from now will have to be through international law which is all part of new phase and a new era," she added.

Palestinian officials say the failure of the Security Council resolution was their last attempt to reach out for a negotiated peace process before turning to international legal bodies.

Khatib said that to date Palestine had signed 38 treaties with international bodies, and expected to sign hundreds of others.  Along with the membership of the ICC and the Geneva Convention, the PA would pursue an active, non-violent campaign against the occupation at home. This will include demonstrations, and campaigning for a boycott of settlement products abroad." The occupation is not only free for Israel, it is making money from it. We want to ensure that the occupation becomes a burden to Israel," Khatib said.

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