With the Israeli government continuing to seize Palestinian tax money and hold the funds in Israeli banks, the Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that it will be unable to pay salaries to civil servants and pensions to the elderly and disabled this coming month.Although Israeli officials claim that the seizure of the money is a political tactic aimed at pressuring the Palestinian Authority to adhere to their demands, the money seized is Palestinian tax money, and Palestinian officials say that Israel’s seizure of their funds equates to outright theft.
One-third of the Palestinian population receives some form of compensation from the Palestinian Authority. These include civil servants, municipal employees, pensions for the elderly and disabled, and salaries for schoolteachers, medical doctors and bus drivers, among others.
The tax money supplies nearly two-thirds of the total funding of the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s seizure of the funds in recent months has led to the breakdown of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza.
In addition to criticism among Palestinians, many Israelis have also challenged the move by the Israeli government, arguing that the tax funds support the Palestinian security forces, which have been successful in quelling Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent years. These critics, which include officials in the Israeli government, have stated that seizing Palestinian Authority funds will make Israelis less safe.
The Israeli government decided to freeze the funds as talks progress between the two main Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fateh. Although the Hamas party ended its attacks on Israeli civilians in 2005, the Israeli and US governments still consider the party to be a terrorist entity, and have stated that any government involving Hamas would be considered a terrorist government.
Palestinian Prime Minister of the Fateh party, Salam Fayyad, said that salaries should be paid in the first week of December, but due to the Israeli seizure of funds, these payments will not happen.
Fayyad stated that the seizure of funds “has both an immediate impact on the lives of all employees and their dependents, some 1 million people … (and) has a devastating indirect impact throughout the whole economy.”