A new report by the Israeli newspaper ‘Jerusalem Post’, based on unnamed sources within the Palestinian Authority, claims that the PA has agreed to pursue no formal charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC), in exchange for the release of tax money that had been illegally seized by Israeli authorities.The report came after an announcement on Friday by the Israeli government that they would return to the Palestinian Authority some of the $500 million that they had illegally seized since January, but would not return the entire amount – instead subtracting from the total an arbitrary charge for electric, water and hospital bills.
This amount will also not include the tax monies from the month of March, just January and February. So far the Israeli government has not made any statement on whether or when it will release the March tax funds. These are taxes collected by Israel on goods imported into the Palestinian Territories – since the PA does not control any borders, Israel has complete control over all imports and exports. Despite the fact that these taxes are supposed to be directly transferred to the PA, Israeli authorities regularly withhold and seize these funds.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) decided in December to join the International Criminal Court. According to the Jerusalem Post, the PA had requested a prosecutor at the ICC to investigate Israeli war crimes in Gaza during the invasion last summer in which, according to UN OCHA, 2,220 Palestinians were killed, of whom 1,492 were civilians (551 children, 299 women).
But the Jerusalem Post report claims that their unnamed source has said that because the tax money was released, the investigation will go no further than that, and no charges will be issued against Israel for war crimes in Gaza or illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Even if the Palestinian Authority did at some point move forward with formal charges against Israel, its unclear how much hold these charges would have, since Israel is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, and does not recognize the court’s authority.