JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will delay the transfer of tax proceeds collected for the Palestinian Authority pending proof that the money will not go to the terrorist Hamas organization.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday that a routine transfer of $88 million will be delayed and that meetings scheduled for this week between his ministry and PA officials will not take place, according to reports.
The action is in response to last week’s announcement that the ruling Fatah Party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, had reconciled and would form a unity government.
"The burden of proof lies with the Palestinian Authority to show that not even one shekel is given to Hamas and funds terror," Steinitz told Army Radio. “Is it certain that none of the money will be transferred to a terror organization to purchase missiles and rockets?”
Israel collects taxes for the Palestinian Authority as part of the 1993 Oslo Accord. Tax revenues transfered to the PA from Israel amount to $1 billion to $1.4 billion annually, Ynet reported, citing an unnamed Treasury source.
"The agreement that was initialed recently between Hamas, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, and the Fatah movement must concern not only every Israeli, but all those in the world who aspire to see peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the beginning of the regular Cabinet meeting. "Peace is possible only with those who want to live in peace alongside us and not with those who want to destroy us."
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the weekend that the United Nations should make a new Palestinian unity government recogntze Israel as a condition for cooperating with the government, Reuters reported.
Barak’s call to Ban came after the U.N. head said he welcomed the new cooperation between Fatah and Hamas.