Middle East Monitor / August 9, 2023
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has refused to approve economic measures to assist the Palestinian Authority (PA), local media revealed on Monday.
According to Israel TV Channel 12, the Religious Zionism chairman insisted on his opposition to an agreement just to delay the payment of PA taxes for two years.
This came, reported The Times of Israel, despite an Israeli commitment to the US administration to offer economic aid to the PA to prevent its collapse.
Channel 12 also said that Smotrich will likely refuse to approve any other move intended to assist the PA.
Israeli TV Channel 13 news reported Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer telling the cabinet that the measures to aid the PA are part of promises made to the US administration in the wake of recent illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously stressed that “promises must be kept — in particular to the Americans.”
Last month, the security cabinet voted in favour of a series of steps to bolster the PA, including the approval of a new industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron/Al-Khalil. The King Hussein crossing (Allenby Bridge) between Jordan and the occupied West Bank would also see its hours of operation extended, while senior PA officials would have their VIP passes reinstated, giving them greater flexibility to travel between the occupied West Bank and Israel and beyond.
In January, Smotrich signed a decree to redirect 139 million shekels ($39.6 million) in PA tax revenue, as part of punitive measures against the PA’s international legal action against Israel.