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Erekat blasts Israel finance minister for seizing taxes

Feb. 13, 2013 7:16 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 2:25 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday condemned Israel's finance minister for remarks confirming he was withholding money to punish internal Palestinian political decisions.

“These remarks reveal the real face of the Israeli occupation, which wants to give instructions to the Palestinian people. Israel doesn't want us to achieve reconciliation and Arab states must realize that,” Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio.

Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday that “Following the PA’s unilateral move in the UN General Assembly last November, the Israeli government has decided to freeze the transfer of tax money to the Palestinian Authority until further notice,” in a statement quoted by Israeli media.

Palestinian Ministry of Finance spokesman Rami Mahdawi told Ma'an that the ongoing breach "confirms that Israel is going on with its piracy on Palestinian money."

Referring to the remarks by Steinitz, he said, "These remarks clearly prove that the Palestinian government is facing a severe financial crisis rendering the government unable to pay civil servants’ salaries and to pay back debts."

Steinitz told Channel 1 TV Monday that the motives behind Israel’s decision to withhold tax money still remained. The main reasons for withholding tax money, he explained, were the PA attempts to establish partnership with Hamas, and the declarations by Palestinian leaders about their intentions to sue Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court.

If the Palestinian president abandons these paths, all options will be open for us to resume cooperation with the PA which we seek to maintain rather than destroy, added Steinitz.

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