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Israeli sanctions amount to ‘new war’ against Palestinians: PM Shtayyeh

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (C) chairs a cabinet meeting in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo by WAFA news agency)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says a raft of measures recently announced by Israeli authorities amount to a “new war” against the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israel's new right-wing cabinet led by Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday it will withhold millions of dollars in tax revenues from the PA.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting held in Ramallah on Sunday, the Palestinian prime minister said the measures amounted to "a new war against the Palestinian people, their capabilities and their funds, and a war against the national authority (PA) and its survival."

Such sanctions, he said, were "aimed at undermining the authority and pushing it to the brink -- financially and institutionally."

Shtayyeh said “acts of piracy, looting and vengeance practiced by the occupying power will not discourage our people and our leadership from continuing in their political, diplomatic and legal struggle. We do not barter our right to self-determination and our freedom for money or privileges.”

Israel has repeatedly withheld tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the PA over the past years.

Since the beginning of 2019 and until the end of 2022, Israel has deducted virtually $570 million from the Palestinian tax funds. Israel deducts around $100 million annually as a commission for the collection of taxes on goods and services for the PA before transferring the funds to the PA treasury.

Shtayyeh said the deductions decided by the Israeli courts, the most recent of which was the deduction of $40 million in compensation for Israelis killed by Palestinians, “are illegal and illegitimate and we do not recognize them.”

“These cuts are illegitimate and illegal, are a unilateral measure that is not subject to scrutiny by any Palestinian or international body, and are in violation of the signed agreements.”

Tel Aviv has already invoked a law to deduce tax revenues relative to the amounts the PA pays to the Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails or the families of those killed by the Israeli military.

Several senior Palestinian officials condemned the decision, which they described as “piracy and an illegal economic aggression.”

The stipends benefit roughly 35,000 families of the Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel. The PA says the payments are a form of welfare stipend to the families who have lost their main breadwinner.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has time and again defended such payments as an important function of his administration.

The latest developments followed the Palestinian Authority's successful lobbying for a UN General Assembly vote referring Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Netanyahu, the war criminal mired in corruption allegations, is back at the helm of the temporary entity. The last time he was prime minister, over 3,500 Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces, including 799 children and 342 women. His role led to the destruction of over 8,000 Palestinian homes, leaving over 12,000 homeless.

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