Abbas asks Arab states for cash

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Arab states to fill the financial hole after he refused to accept tax payments collected by Israel.

Abbas said yesterday: “Of course, we have asked the [Arab] brothers for a safety net … we asked for $100 million per month. We told them we will take it as debt … [but] even on the debt offer, we have not received a response. But we have to bear responsibility and be patient.”

Abbas said he would not accept any of the tax funds collected by Israel on behalf of the PA unless Israel retracts its decision to deduct the salaries paid to Palestinian prisoners and their families. Abbas accused Israel of: “Stealing or deducting the money belonging to martyrs, the wounded and security prisoners. In the end, Israel will return our money in our way, and not in its way.”

In February Israel began to deduct the portion of the Palestinian tax funds – estimated at 6-8 per cent of the tax revenues – that the PA uses to pay stipends to Palestinians who are imprisoned by Israel for security offences and the families of Palestinians who were killed or injured carrying out terrorist attacks.

The tax revenues account for more than half of the PA’s budget. Hahadashot reported yesterday that in January 2019 the PA ran a budget deficit of NIS200m (£42.8m). A month later the PA slashed its expenditure from NIS 1.6 billion (£0.34bn to NIS 678 million (£145m) , resulting in paying partial salaries to its employees, scaling back on services and increasing borrowing from local banks.

The UN’s Under-Secretary-General, Rosemary A. DiCarlo warned the UN Security Council yesterday that the PA is on the verge of collapse. She said: “A sustainable resolution of the PA’s funding crisis is urgently required.” She called on the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which is meeting in Brussels today, to discuss donor support for the Palestinians to tackle the issue of the financial crisis that “threatens the viability of the PA”.

Abbas also blamed Europe for inventing Zionism: “Of course, everything is not in our favour, but such a position coming from Europe is a good thing. This is what we have historically become used to, because you all know Europe is the one that invented — this slightly annoys our neighbours — Zionism and Israel. It is the one that invented it. Let’s not fool ourselves. This is what history says. Whoever has something that refutes this history, go ahead.”