Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds

Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds
A Bedouin man walks with a Palestinian flag in the village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on November 29, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 December 2020

Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds

Israel sends Palestinians over $1 billion in withheld funds
  • The Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel in May in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of West Bank
  • Israel later put its annexation plans on hold

RAMALLAH: Israel has released more than $1 billion in funds withheld from the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian minister said Wednesday, weeks after coordination was renewed between the two sides.
“The Israeli government transfers all financial dues of the clearance to the account of the Palestinian Authority, amounting to three billion and 768 million shekels,” civil affairs minister Hussein Al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter, referring to taxes, including customs taxes, that the Jewish state collects on behalf of the PA.

In May, the Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel, with PA leader Mahmud Abbas saying it was in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
Israel later put its annexation plans on hold, in return for an agreement to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, announced in August.
In halting the cooperation with Israel, the PA also stopped accepting transfer of taxes — particularly customs duties — collected by Israel on its behalf.
Earlier in the week, an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the “security cabinet approved transferring the money to the PA,” without specifying the amount.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday the Palestinians were “entitled” to the funds, expected to relieve pressure on a Palestinian economy in the grips of a severe budgetary crisis.
Officials “will take everything they are owed. They have been patient for months and it’s only a matter of a little more time to make everything clear,” Shtayyeh said.
Deprived of this income, the PA had to cut the salaries of its civil servants, at a time when the Palestinian economy had begun grappling with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.


Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile
Updated 2 min 46 sec ago

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile

Lebanon patriarch tells feuding president and PM-designate to reconcile
  • The country’s fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration since the last one quit
  • Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said at his Sunday sermon that the situation in Lebanon was now “tragic”

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric has urged President Michel Aoun to set up a reconciliation meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri to form a cabinet and end the country’s political deadlock.
The country’s fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration since the last one quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion, leaving Lebanon rudderless as it sinks deeper into economic crisis.
Tensions between Aoun and Hariri, who publicly traded blame in December after failing to agree a cabinet, came to a head last week when a leaked video showed Aoun apparently calling Hariri a liar.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said at his Sunday sermon that the situation in Lebanon was now “tragic” and there was no excuse to further delay forming a government.
“We wish that his excellency the president take the initiative and invite the prime minister-designate to a meeting.”
Veteran Sunni politician Hariri was named premier for a fourth time in October, promising to form a cabinet of specialists to enact reforms necessary to unlock foreign aid, but political wrangling has delayed the process since.
The leaked video that circulated on social media last week showed Aoun talking to caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab about Hariri.
“There is no government formation, he (Hariri) is saying he gave me a paper, he is lying,” Aoun is heard saying.
Sources in the president’s office said the dialogue had been taken out of context and was not complete.
After the video circulated, Hariri tweeted biblical verses referring to wisdom not residing in bodies that were amenable to sin.
The souring of the relationship between Aoun and Hariri comes as the country continues to struggle with an acute financial crisis that has seen the currency sink by about 80%.
Lebanon’s health care system is also buckling under the pressure of a severe spike in COVID-19 infections. Medical supplies have dwindled as dollars have grown scarce.