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UN urges Israel to resume tax payments to Palestinians

The United Nations is calling on Israel to release some $127 million in tax revenue transfers it has refused to pay the Palestinians
On 30 December, the UN security council rejected a Palestinian draft resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories (AFP)
NEW YORK CITY, United States – The UN urged Israel to resume tax payments to Palestinians on Thursday, as Palestinian diplomats revived efforts to realise their aspiration of a fully-independent state through the world body’s mechanisms.
 
UN deputy chief of political affairs, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, warned of an “ever-widening trust deficit” between the two camps. Israel has frozen some $127 million in tax revenue transfers in retaliation for Palestinian efforts to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
 
“We call on Israel to immediately resume the transfer of tax revenues,” Toyberg-Frandzen told the UN Security Council. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now entering unchartered territory, which, lamentably, seems to have dashed any immediate hope for a return to peace talks.”
 
He warned the council of a “downward spiral of actions and counter-actions” between Israelis and Palestinians, as it met to debate Middle East peace for the first time since last month’s failed Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN’s top chamber.
 
On December 30, council members rejected a Palestinian draft resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories by late 2017 and to base peace talks on borders that existed before Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during a war in 1967.
 
The next day, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed 20 international agreements, including the ICC’s founding statute. The Palestinians will become full ICC members on April 1, giving prosecutors jurisdiction over alleged atrocities on Palestinian soil.
 
The Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said his government was not deterred by the rejection. “In spite of this setback, we will continue to approach the Security Council,” he said on Thursday.
 
In Cairo on Thursday, Arab League foreign ministers endorsed a Palestinian plan to resubmit the draft resolution at the UN. Over the New Year, five temporary Security Council seats rotated to new members who may be more sympathetic to Palestinian goals.
 
In any scenario, the veto-wielding United States would almost certainly vote “No” again. Washington’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, said Palestinian efforts to join the ICC and other bodies were “counter-productive”.
 
“We continue to oppose unilateral actions by both sides that we view as detrimental to the cause of peace,” she told the 15-member council.
 
Buoyed by recognition of de facto Palestinian statehood by the UN General Assembly in 2012, Abbas has sought to tackle deadlocked peace talks with Israel by gaining UN membership and recognition of statehood through the ICC and other international bodies.
 
Israel maintains that only direct talks will yield a peace deal, and warns that its eastern border would be indefensible if it withdrew its forces from the West Bank. Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
 
A 50-day Israeli assault on Hamas-run Gaza last year claimed the lives of some 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Toyberg-Frandzen warned of renewed clashes in the territory, saying: “The Strip is balancing on a tightrope that will continue to fray.”