Israel will keep $120 million dollars in Palestinian funds this month as punishment for disobeying orders to hold off on its UN bid, Israeli media reported Sunday. “I have no intention of transferring the tax payments to the PA this month,” Israel’s finance minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli radio, adding that the money will go towards paying off “Palestinian debt to Israel.”
Israel says the Palestinians owe about $200 million in unpaid electricity bills. Israel each month collects about $100 million dollars in taxes and tariffs for goods transferred through Israeli ports destined for Palestinian markets.
The UN General Assembly on Thursday approved PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ bid to upgrade the status of Palestine as a non-member state to the ire of Israel and the United States.
Israel has long warned of punitive actions against Abbas, who already struggles to pay salaries for civil servants, should he push forward with the UN bid.
As further punishment, Israel on Friday announced plans to expand illegal settlements by an additional 3,000 homes in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, drawing condemnation from European countries, and some mild criticism from the United States.
Israel’s finance minister confirmed that the move to confiscate more Palestinian land was in response to the UN bid. “We made it clear to the Americans that if the Palestinians go to the UN, this will be our response,” Steinitz said.