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US Flays Israel For Freezing Palestinian Tax Revenue

US State Department spokeswoman Jean Psaki

The Israeli government blocked the transfer of approximately $125 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority

By M. Bilal Kenasari

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is opposed to Israel’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority as a reaction to Palestinians’ efforts to join the International Criminal Court, an official said Monday.

“We call on both sides to avoid actions that raise tensions and make it more difficult to return to direct negotiations,” said State Department spokeswoman Jean Psaki.

The Palestinian UN envoy last week formally delivered an application to join the International Criminal Court, or the ICC, a day after the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian draft resolution calling for a three-year deadline for the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

The move came two days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute – the founding treaty of the ICC – along with 20 international agreements and organizations.

Reacting to the Palestinians’ move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel“will not sit idly by” as the Palestinian Authority decides to confront Israel by joining the ICC.

The Israeli government blocked the transfer of approximately $125 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, a move chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described as “piracy.”

Psaki said the U.S. Congress, that begins a new term this week under Republican control, might react to the Palestinian move by withholding aid or implementing any number of other measures.

“There could be implications on assistance. There are a range of ways that could take place. Congress has a great deal of power in that regard,” she said.

According to Israeli media, a senior Israeli official said Israel would use its pro -Israel members in the U.S. Congress to ensure the enforcement of legislation that would stipulate that if Palestinians initiate any action againstIsrael at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the Palestinian Authority. 

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