Middle East Monitor / September 7, 2023
Israel’s extreme far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced on Tuesday that the apartheid state will begin deducting funds collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to settle the PA’s unpaid debt to the Israel Electricity Corporation (IEC).
“No more. After many years of great injustice, Israeli citizens will stop financing electricity for the PA out of their own pockets,” wrote Smotrich on X. “For many years, the Finance Ministry failed massively, and because of that Israeli citizens paid millions of shekels each month to fund the electricity consumption of the PA. From now on, I will deduct from the funds for the PA each month the entirety of its electricity consumption, and later on we will also deduct money to offset its past debts.”
According to Reuters, a spokesman for Smotrich claimed that the PA debt to the IEC is estimated at around two billion shekels ($526 million). He noted that the amount to be deducted would depend on how much electricity the PA buys each month, but it could reach 20 or 30 million shekels. The action, he added, is in accordance with the law.
However, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh slammed Israel’s deduction of tax revenue collected on behalf of the PA. “This is systematic piracy and a theft of our money,” said Shtayyeh. “These deductions are a declaration of financial war that isn’t isolated from the ongoing political war against our people and that aims to undermine our people’s hope in gaining their rights and establishing their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The PA has been facing multiple economic hardships over many years as a result of Israeli decisions to deduct or halt the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues collected by the occupation state. The tax revenues – known in Palestine and Israel as maqasa — are collected by the Israeli government on behalf of the PA on Palestinian imports and exports. Israel earns a commission of 3 per cent of the sums collected, which are estimated at around $30-33 million every month. This represents the main regular source of income for the PA.