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PA asks Israel to review Paris Protocol

Sept. 9, 2012 12:32 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2012 9:26 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday asked his civil affairs minister to officially request from Israel a review of the economic accords between their governments.

Hussain al-Sheikh said he has written to Israel requesting a clarification of the Paris Protocol in light of the Palestinian Authority's financial situation upon Abbas' request.

He said they were waiting for a response, and if Israel agrees, the minister will form a committee of negotiators and experts to review the accords.

In an interview with Israel's Reshet Bet radio, Israeli defense ministry policy director Amos Gilad said the state should carefully study the request to assess how realistic it is.

The Paris Protocol was signed in 1994 as an annex to the Oslo Accords that established the interim Palestinian government.

Protesters rallying against rising prices and unemployment across the West Bank this week have called for its cancellation. The agreement has mostly benefited Israel while making the Palestinian economy dependent on Israel's economy, they argue.

The Protocol gave Israel sole control over Palestine's external trade, and collection of customs duties, allowing the state to serially hold back this revenue as punishment for Palestinian political measures, such as the bid for UN membership.

It also pegs VAT to Israeli tax rates, currently at 17 percent, despite the huge disparity in average Palestinian and Israeli incomes.

Provisions allowing the Palestinians to make free-trade agreements with other states and mandating access to Israeli markets have not transpired.

The Oslo Accords set out a temporary system of Palestinian self-government, to be gradually extended to Palestinian independence, but nearly two decades later they remain in place amid a litany of failed negotiations and outbreaks of unrest.
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