The Palestinian Authority is threatening to reject tax revenues collected for it by Israel unless Jerusalem reverses its decision to offset funds intended for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Channel 13 reported on Saturday night.
Senior P.A. officials have expressed to the United States their opposition to the move, and Ramallah will make a final decision on the matter on Sunday, with the Israelis assessing that despite the statements the P.A. will take the money, according to the report.
Israel’s Security Cabinet voted late on Thursday to resume the transfer of P.A. funds, but to withhold an amount equivalent to the funds earmarked Gaza.
“The Security Cabinet decided to deduct all funds designated for the Gaza Strip—in addition to the deduction, required by law, of funds paid to terrorists and their families—from Palestinian Authority funds,” the decision read.
The withheld sum amounts to approximately $100 million, according to Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster.
Israel collects taxes and tariffs on behalf of Ramallah as part of a mechanism outlined in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Following Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror assault, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich instructed his ministry to halt the transfer of funds to the P.A.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee that the Biden administration had asked Jerusalem to release the funds.
Smotrich on Wednesday said, “I hear that there are those who think that while our heroic soldiers and commanders are sacrificing their lives for the defense of the homeland, we should transfer money to this despicable enemy in Judea and Samaria.”
The minister also urged fellow Cabinet members to reconsider the policy of transferring money to Ramallah, due to “senior P.A. officials’ support for the horrific massacres of the Nazi terrorist organization Hamas.”
During the Security Cabinet vote on Thursday, Smotrich abstained, while National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir voted against the measure.
“I opposed the transfer of funds to the [Palestinian] Authority, and I still oppose it. The aspirations of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are the same,” tweeted Smotrich on Friday.
“When my primary position was accepted, and so was my demand to offset the money for Gaza, I did not see fit to vote against the position of my colleagues,” he added.
Ben-Gvir responded to the Channel 13 report:
“As someone who opposed the foolish decision to transfer even one shekel to the allies of Hamas, I call on them [the P.A.] to be determined in their position and not to accept the money. The concept that the P.A. is different from Hamas, while its leaders openly glorify the massacres of our brothers and sisters and pay salaries to the murderers of our children, must be uprooted. I call on the prime minister and the minister of finance not to transfer even a shekel to them.”
The Security Cabinet also voted in favor of a proposal to sever “all contact” with the Strip.
“There will be no more Palestinian workers from Gaza. Those workers from Gaza who were in Israel on the day of the outbreak of the war will be returned to Gaza,” the statement said.
Gaza residents who legally work in Israel and were detained following the Oct. 7 invasion were returned to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday morning, Army Radio reported.
Before the Hamas assault, Jerusalem provided work permits to some 17,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Some of them helped Hamas plan and carry out the massacre.