PALESTINIANS TO GET ‘FROZEN TAXES’

JERUSALEM: Israel has agreed to transfer in full hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority (PA) but frozen in a row over the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Palestinian premier said.

Rami Hamdallah, in a statement from his office late on Friday, said Israel pledged at a meeting with Palestinian officials to hand over the taxes collected between December and March, amounting to almost half a billion dollars.

Israeli media said the transfer of 1.8bn shekels would take place on Monday.

The Palestinians had threatened to turn to ICC over Israel’s decision in early January to retain the taxes in retaliation for them joining the court.

The monthly funds account for two-thirds of the Palestinians’ annual budget, excluding foreign aid.

Israel agreed at the start of April to release the funds after deducting debts due for electricity, water and medical services, a proposal rejected by the Palestinians who insisted on full payment. Hamdallah said PA, once the funds are received, will firstly pay the April salaries of its 180,000 employees, who have been receiving only 60 per cent of their wages since December.

The deficit will also be paid “as soon as possible”, the prime minister said.

Under an economic agreement signed in 1994, Israel transfers to PA tens of millions of dollars every month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily