Israel’s decision to collect money owed them by the Palestinians for utilities and hospital costs has Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatening to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the matter, according to the BBC. The ICC’s mandate is “the most serious crimes of concern” to the world according to its website, but Abbas is using the court as leverage to get Israel to ignore millions of dollars in debt.
The dispute centers around Israel’s decision to transfer tax revenues to the Palestinians, which they had withheld for a couple months due to the Palestinian decision to bring claims of alleged Israeli war crimes to the ICC. However, an Israeli press release in March announced they would send the funds to the Palestinians, “offset by payments for services rendered to the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water and hospitalization.” But on Monday, Abbas said they’d take all the money or none of it.
“We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the ICC. We will not accept anything else,” the BBC quoted Abbas as saying at a rally.
This comes just weeks after Israel decided to transfer the tax funds, which the BBC said are collected by Israel on the Palestinian government’s behalf. At the time, in a press statement, Israel said it chose to release the funds because of humanitarian concerns and Israeli interests in battling extremism in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in the press statement as saying, “Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist elements.”
On Monday, following Abbas’ decision to reject the funds following the utility bill deduction, the US said they hoped the sides could work the situation out.
“We’ve long expressed our concern over the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority,” said spokesperson Marie Harf in comments released by the State Department. “We welcome the decision of the [Israeli] prime minister to release the withheld revenues, and we understand there is currently disagreement over deductions. We encourage the parties to work this issue out in a fair and equitable manner.”
During the press conference, Harf also reiterated the general American position that the Palestinians should not be allowed to go to the ICC because they are not a state.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 6, 2015)