Abbas says he doubts Israel vow to free Palestinian funds

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said today he doubted Israel's willingness to unblock hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes a day after it promised to do so.

PTI| Last Updated: Mar 29, 2015, 01:33 AM IST

Sharm EL Sheikh: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said today he doubted Israel's willingness to unblock hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes a day after it promised to do so.

"They've announced they will release the money, but so far they have unlocked nothing," Abbas told an Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

"Maybe they will impose a thousand and one conditions before doing so and guaranteeing not to freeze the funds again."

On Friday, Israel said it would release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax funds it has withheld from the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure over its move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said revenues accumulated over three months, frozen since January, would be transferred after normal deductions for services.

"They are collecting this money in our name, and charging a three percent service fee," Abbas said Saturday.

"They collect USD 100 million and take USD 3 million. If they decide to deprive us of the funds by blocking them it still makes no difference to them," he said.

Netanyahu's office did not say whether Israel would resume the normal monthly payment of around USD 127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The Jewish state has not quantified the amount to be transferred, but has did say it would deduct debts due for services such as electricity, water and medical care.

Israel's move, which was welcomed by the United States, comes just ahead of the Palestinians formally becoming members of the ICC on Wednesday.

They will then be able to proceed with legal action against Israeli officials at the court based in The Hague.

The Palestinians have said they intend to pursue war crimes allegedly committed by Israeli during last summer's war in Gaza, as well as Israel's policy of building settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

"The foreign minister will travel to the ICC on April 1 to celebrate our commitment to the International Criminal Court," Abbas said Saturday, recalling that the Palestinian initiative came "after we failed to prevent further colonisation by Israel".