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WEST BANK: Palestinian vulnerability exposed as Israel withholds money

May 2, 2011 |  1:13 pm

Lkktvanc Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday sent out an urgent appeal for help saying he may not be able to pay for salaries for about 130,000 public employees or anything else if Israel does not release about $100 million in funds collected over the last month on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel said Sunday that it has decided not to pay the funds after the Fatah faction, which controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, took steps to reconcile difference with Hamas, the Islamist movement which has ruled Gaza Strip since June 2007 and which does not formally recognize Israel.

At a news conference in Ramallah, Fayyad said that unless Israel paid the money it owes, he, in his capacity as finance minister, would not be able to pay the April salaries.

The funds Israel is withholding are tax revenues it collects on the Palestinian Authority's behalf, including value added taxes and customs on goods imported into the West Bank and Gaza Strip that enter through Israeli ports. Israel collects the fees and at the end of the month its finance officials meet with Palestinian counterparts to discuss transfer of this money. Soon after the meeting, Israel transfers the money to the Palestinian Authority treasury, which immediately pays salaries.

This time, the Palestinian Authority has not yet paid April salaries and may not be able to do that any time soon because Israel has decided to withhold the monthly payment.

“Israel has no right to withhold this money,” Fayyad said. “This is Palestinian money and it is not a grant or charity from Israel.”

Fayyad appealed for help from the donor countries to get him out of his predicament, first, by financial support, and, second, by pressuring Israel to release the funds. It is unclear whether Israel will be swayed.

— Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

Photo: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad addresses a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday. Credit: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images.

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