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Israel seizes PA revenues in response to UN vote

Dec. 2, 2012 12:31 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2012 9:46 P.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel's government decided to seize Palestinian Authority tax revenues in response to the UN vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member state, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Israel will use the 460 million shekels ($120 million) of November tax payments to pay PA debts to the Israeli Electric Company, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told the Sunday cabinet meeting that UN vote is a "Palestinian provocation and an attempt to advance their state without recognizing Israel," new site Ynet reported.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said Israel was guilty of "piracy and theft" by refusing to hand over the funds.

The Israeli government also unveiled plans on Friday to build 3,000 new settlement units and expedite building in the so-called E-1 area of the occupied West Bank, a day after the UN vote.

Steinitz said Sunday: "It is high time that Jerusalem will be connected to (Israeli settlement) Maale Adumim. We told the US that if the Palestinians would go to the UN there would be repercussions."

The United States, one of just eight countries to vote alongside Israel against the Palestinians at the UN General Assembly, had called the latest expansion plan "counterproductive."

Israel had threatened a number of sanctions in response to the bid, including withdrawing Palestinian tax revenues, supporting more settlement building, and canceling past agreements.

Israeli media reported that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had urged Israel not to punish Abbas' administration for the bid, and West Bank officials were optimistic that she had been successful.

Israel has withheld the tax revenues, which it collects on the PA's behalf as a result of international agreements, several times in recent years to punish the PA leadership.

The government also held back a smaller sum, around $9 million, in September to pay the Israeli Electric Corp., which supplies West Bank cities with power.

Israeli officials say the Palestinian Authority's Jerusalem District Electricity Co. has accumulated a $200 million debt from the company in unpaid bills.

The aid-dependent Palestinian economy in the West Bank faces financial crisis due to a drop in aid from Western backers and wealthy Gulf states, as well as Israeli restrictions on trade.

Reuters contributed to this report

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