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Israel weighs lawsuits and withholds funds against Palestinians

Israel weighs lawsuits and withholds funds against Palestinians

In retaliation for moves by the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Israel has decided to withhold tax revenue from the Palestinians and is looking at ways to bring war crime prosecutions against President Abbas and other senior figures.

Yahoo News reports: In a first punitive response to Abbas’ approach to the ICC, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in consultation with senior ministers on Thursday to withhold a monthly transfer of tax revenue totaling some 500 million shekels ($125 million), an Israeli official said on Saturday.

The funds are critical to running the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule, and paying public sector salaries. Israel took a similar step in December 2012, freezing revenue transfers for three months in anger at the Palestinians’ launch of a statehood recognition campaign at the United Nations.

Under interim peace deals from the 1990s, Israel collects at least $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

In addition to the revenue freeze, an Israeli official said Israel was “weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere” of President Abbas and other senior Palestinians.

Israel would probably press these cases via non-governmental groups and pro-Israel legal organizations capable of filing lawsuits abroad, a second Israeli official said, explaining how the mechanism might work. 

Israel sees the heads of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank as collaborators with Hamas militant Islamists in Gaza because of a unity deal they forged in April, the officials said.

Netanyahu has previously warned that unilateral moves by the Palestinian Authority at the U.N. would expose its leaders to prosecution over support for Hamas, viewed by Israel as a terrorist organization.