Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET
Israel says it will halt about $127 million in monthly tax revenue that it normally transfers to the Palestinians in retaliation for a move by President Mahmoud Abbas to move toward joining the International Criminal Court and other international agencies.
“The funds for the month of December were due to pass on Friday, but it was decided to half the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move,” an official said, according to Ha’aretz.
As NPR’s Jerusalem-based Emily Harris explains: “This is revenue from taxes on products brought into Palestinian territories. Israel regularly collects it on behalf of the Palestinian administration. If the money is withheld for long, tens of thousands of Palestinian government employees may not receive their salaries.”
Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called the decision by Israel “piracy and collective punishment.”
Ha’aretz says: “Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour submitted the request to join 22 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at the Hague on Friday evening to the U.N. offices in New York. The documents were signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.”
And, according to The Associated Press:
“The move is meant to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories that Palestinians demand for a future state.”
“It’s a risky strategy for the Palestinians because it means they themselves could be accused of war crimes over rocket attacks by the Islamic militant group Hamas on Israeli residential centers and other Palestinian violence against Jewish targets.”
Ha’aretz quotes the unnamed official as saying the Israeli move was in direct response to Abbas’ decision to push for membership in the ICC: “We are a law-abiding nation that actively investigates its own conduct, and we can prove that easily,” the official said.
“So in regards to the international arena, we will not only defend ourselves against the Palestinians’ actions, we will also go on the offensive,” the official said, according to Ha’aretz.
It says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Palestinian ICC bid a “hypocritical application by the Palestinian Authority.”
The AP notes: “Israel has stopped tax transfers before but such freezes have been short-lived.”