The spokesman of the Palestinian government, Ghazi Hammad, speaking to Ma’an News Agency, considered the Israeli decision to continue withholding tax money due to the Palestinian Authority  ‘repressive’.

“The due tax money is owned by the Palestinian people and should be returned to the Palestinian treasury”, Hammad said.

Hammad refuted Israeli allegations that such money would go to Hamas, saying that the newly-formed unity government is comprised of all Palestinian factions including Hamas. He believed that such an Israeli stance intends to foil the unity government, particularly after it has been welcomed by many international players such as Norway, France and Italy.

The government’s spokesman confirmed that during the next Arab Summit in late March the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya of Hamas, will request that the Arab states provide financial and political backing to the Palestinian unity government.

Hammad believed that some Arab countries would use their close ties with the United States to convince the latter to lift the economic embargo, which was imposed after last year’s democratic elections.

According to Israeli Radio’s Hebrew service, Israel reiterated a refusal to transfer due tax money to the Palestinian Authority, under the pretext that such funds would reinforce the standing of Hamas not that of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel has been withholding a total of approximately $US700 of tax revenues since March 2006, bolstering the economic embargo which the Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) imposed on the withdrawing Hamas-led government.

Recently, the Quartet has welcomed the new unity government and announced approval of a three-month international assistance mechanism to help the Palestinian people, who have been suffering from an unprecedented poverty rate. It is estimated that more than 70% of the population is below the poverty line.