Israeli Cabinet decides to release frozen tax funds to Palestinian President
The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved the release of frozen tax funds to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, officials said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked the Cabinet to release the funds as part of a package of moves in support of Abbas.
According to the AP, the main proposal at Sunday's Cabinet meeting was a gradual release of some $550 million tax money that Israel has withheld from the Palestinians since Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006. "We are raising at today's Cabinet meeting a proposal to unfreeze funds we have been holding for a long period, Palestinian funds, in order to support in a phased process the new Palestinian government, which is not a Hamas government," Olmert told his ministers.
Meeting participants said the proposal passed with an overwhelming majority; just two righ-wing ministers voted against it. However, it remained unclear when Israel would release the money. Without the money, the Palestinian government has been unable to pay the salaries of its workers.
The Cabinet also discussed the removal of some of the hundreds of roadblocks Israel has erected throughout the West Bank, meeting participants said.
Olmert said Israel will continue to provide ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. "We shall, of course ... make sure we supply all the services: electricity, water, medical services and food," he said.