Palestine worried Israel will withhold tax revenues
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Tuesday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will appeal at an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday for political and economic support in the event of Israeli punitive measures.
Malki's comments came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this week issued a stern warning to the Palestinians about their application to join 15 international treaties and conventions and any future steps the PA might take outside the negotiating process to shore up legal standing as a state. “Unilateral steps on [the Palestinians’] part will be met with unilateral steps on our part," Netanyahu warned Sunday.
Looking ahead to possible Israeli economic sanctions, Malki said Tuesday that at the Arab League session, Abbas would voice concern Israel might again withhold tax revenues it transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Interim peace deals task Israel with collecting taxes and customs duties for the PA amounting to around $100 million a month, on goods imported into the Palestinian territories. Israel has previously frozen the payments during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions.
The US-brokered negotiations, which began in July, plunged into crisis last week after Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal, failed to carry out a promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.
Abbas responded by signing the 15 global treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, on behalf of the State of Palestine, a defiant move that surprised Washington and angered Israel.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended another US-mediated session on Tuesday with no sign of a breakthrough in efforts to save peace talks from collapse, but an Israeli official said they had agreed to meet again.
In a statement about the latest discussions, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "Gaps remain but both sides are committed to narrow the gaps."
"The atmosphere was business-like and the sides agreed to meet again to try to find a solution to the crisis," said an Israeli official, who asked not to be identified, after the latest talks wrapped up in the early hours of Tuesday.
The official did not say when the next meeting would be held. There was no immediate Palestinian comment about any future session.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has signaled he may scale back his mediating efforts due to "unhelpful actions" by both sides, was due to meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday, with the state of the peace negotiations high on the agenda.
A senior official in Abbas' Fatah party said that in order for the talks to continue, Palestinians would need a written commitment from Israel recognizing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The Fatah official said Palestinians were also demanding a cessation of settlement activity and a prisoner release.
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