update deskIsrael at War

Smotrich reaffirms decision to withhold tax revenues from PA

"We do not repeat mistakes and concepts that we paid dearly for," Israel's finance minister said."

Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a meeting of his Religious Zionism Party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90.
Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a meeting of his Religious Zionism Party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Wednesday rejected calls to reverse his decision to withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority.

“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 tweeted.

“We do not repeat mistakes and concepts that we paid dearly for.”

His comments came after a report on Tuesday in Axios that the Biden administration “expressed alarm” after Monday’s announcement by Smotrich that he instructed the Finance Ministry to halt the transfer of funds to the P.A.

Smotrich also urged the Cabinet to reconsider its policy of transferring money to Ramallah, due to “senior P.A. officials’ support for the horrific massacres of the Nazi terrorist organization Hamas.”

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he listed 12 inflammatory statements P.A. officials made in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 slaughter of more than 1,400 persons in Israel. The terrorists also wounded more than 5,000 others and took over 200 hostages back to Gaza.

“The P.A. has once again proven the fact, about which we have been raising our voices for years, that it is a terror-supporting organization,” Smotrich wrote in the letter.

“Therefore, beyond the connection of these funds to the Gaza Strip and its residents, these funds are used for activities against the State of Israel and its citizens. It is inconceivable that in this reality we will continue to transfer these funds as if nothing has happened.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the administration asked Israel to release the money to the P.A.

“The Palestinian Authority is doing everything it can to keep security and stability in the West Bank. It is vastly under-sourced. This is another aspect of the problem,” Blinken said.

U.S. officials asked Netanyahu’s office and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer for clarification on Smotrich’s decision, according to the Axios report.

“We told them that such a move undermines the Palestinian Authority and the stability in the West Bank and goes against Israeli interests. We can’t just let everything collapse,” a U.S. official said.

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