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Israeli president slams decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenue as punitive measure
January 06,2015   By:Xinhua

ERUSALEM, Jan. 6, 2015 -- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to withhold tax money from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in response to the latter's bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) Monday, reported Ha'aretz daily.

Rivlin told a group of more than 30 Israeli envoys to Europe in a meeting that while he objects to the Palestinian bid, the withholding of half a billion shekels (about 128 million U.S. dollars) worth of Palestinian tax revenue was damaging to Israel, according to the daily, quoting two Israeli diplomats who attended the meeting.

The president criticized the Palestinian move, which he said was in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords and a means for Palestinians to "thwart direct negotiations" and call the shots unilaterally, adding that Israel would respond.

However, he said, the move Netanyahu decided upon over the weekend of withholding tax revenue Israel collects on behalf of the PA, will damage Israel's interests.

"Freezing the transfer of Palestinians tax funds neither benefits us nor them," Rivlin said, adding that "Palestinians use these funds to sustain themselves and keep the PA functioning. Israel's interest is a functioning PA."

Over the weekend, Israel announced it was withholding the funds in collects on behalf of the PA for the month of December. The arrangement whereby Israel collects tax money for the PA was established in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

According to Israeli officials, Netanyahu decided on the move following a meeting held Thursday discussing Israel's course of action in response to the PA's request to join the ICC in the Hague.

The last time Israel attempted a similar move was in April, following the PA's reconciliation with Hamas and the establishment of the Palestinian Unity Government in April. Israel fought against Hamas for two months last summer.

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