Israel releases PA funds

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel released $100 million in tax funds it had withheld from the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday the handover of the money, the transfer of which had been frozen on Nov. 1 in response to the Palestinians’ recognition as a state by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and scientific agency.

Israel, which collects tax and customs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under interim peace accords from the 1990s, has been troubled by the PA’s lobbying for full U.N. membership as bilateral negotiations remain stalled.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the decision to free the cash, a month’s worth of levies that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority depends on to pay its civil servants, “followed the cessation of unilateral steps on the part of the Palestinian Authority.”

“In the event of the Palestinian Authority resuming unilateral steps, the money transfer will again be reviewed,” the statement said.

Among those opposed to relinquishing the cash was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who noted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has feted terrorists freed by Israel as part of last month’s prisoner swap with Hamas.

But Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is a junior party to Netanyahu’s Likud in the conservative coalition, said Monday that he would not quit the government in protest at a restoration of the PA funds.

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