Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, phoned Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to release Palestinian tax money Israel has been withholding since Palestine was voted as a full UNESCO member. Netanyahu also rejected a request from the U.N. in this regard.Officials at the Netanyahu office stated that Clinton phoned Netanyahu, but claimed that the call was focused on the Iranian file, and not the $200 Million Israel is withholding.
Last week, Israeli National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, phoned his Israeli counterpart, Yaakov Meridor, discussed measures regarding new sanctions on Iran, and informed him that the White House expects Israel to release the Palestinian tax money.
Israeli sources reported that Clinton demanded Netanyahu release the Palestinian tax money, but Netanyahu rejected the demand and stated that the majority of his cabinet is against the move.
He also stated that Israel will not make any decision until after Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, meets Hamas Political Bureau Chief, Khaled Mashal, in Cairo onThursday.
Israel opposes the Palestinian Unity Agreement, and punishes the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas whenever it makes amends with Hamas.
Also, a spokesperson of the United Nations stated that U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon phoned Netanyahu and asked him to release the Palestinian tax money.
The secretary-General also informed Netanyahu that settlement activities in the occupied territories, and in occupied Jerusalem, hinder the efforts to ensure the resumption of peace talks, adding that settlement construction violates the International Law.
He told Netanyahu that it is imperative to avoid any tension in the region, and to create a positive atmosphere that would help boost the peace process.
It is worth mentioning that Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, opposes the freeze of Palestinian tax money, and repeatedly stated that such a move would make the P.A. unable to pay wages, including the salaries of its security forces “that are helping Israel in countering terrorism”, according to Barak.
Israeli Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, pushed for freezing the Palestinian tax money in order to “punish the Palestinians for conducting unilateral moves at the U.N.” Israeli security leaders warned against the move, and said that the freeze harms the Palestinian security forces that coordinate their activities with Israeli.
On his part, Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, threatened to cause the collapse of the government coalition should Israel evacuate settlement outposts, and should it transfer the Palestinian tax money back to the P.A.