Israel Wages Financial War On Palestinian Authority

Israel’s decision to confiscate PA tax funds could provoke an economic collapse of the Palestinian Authority and perhaps a new uprising, writes Rajab Abu Sariya.

al-monitor A Palestinian flag made of balloons floats above a rally marking the UN General Assembly's upgrading of the Palestinians' status to "non-member state" in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Dec. 2, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

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un, taxes, palestinian, palestine, hamas, gaza, fatah

Dec 26, 2012

The decision of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to wage a second war on Gaza did not prevent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from going to the United Nations and fighting his own pitched battle against the Israelis. The next day, following the UN vote, the occupied Palestinian territories became the new battleground. Israel has at the same time and according to the same procedure, launched a war on the Palestinian Authority (PA) both on the ground level and on the economic plane.

On the ground, Israel began implementing its most dangerous settlement building plan, which is designed to completely isolate Jerusalem from the West Bank, and to put an end to two-state solution, once and for all.

At the economic level, Israel took the decision to confiscate PA tax funds, preventing the authority from fulfilling major obligations towards its citizens, mainly paying the employees' salaries, which on their own barely meet the needs of the people's living conditions.

Hence, in response to the UN decision, Israel fought the decision on the ground, through settlements and efforts to thwart the establishment of a [Palestinian] state — which is represented by the PA and their political project — and  tried to drag it into the abyss.

Although it is the duty of every Palestinian to resist the occupation, this steadfastness becomes meaningless when Palestinians stand idly by while they continually receive severe blows without striking back. Palestinians ought to take strict, unyielding measures no matter how difficult they appear to be. The nonstop calls by politicians for reconciliation will remain futile as long as effective measures on the ground are not being taken.

Israel realized that in its second war on Gaza, and the political confrontation at the UN has backfired. Palestinians were not frustrated. On the contrary, these actions boosted their spirits and unified their ranks on the ground and politically, which has opened the door to a popular uprising.

Had Israel continued with its war, things would have spun out of its control. Thus, it decided to point the gun at the Palestinians inside, since it is well aware of the situation that is brewing in the West Bank.

If a Palestinian uprising is a must, so let it be — but let it be in the internal, in the face of the Palestinian Authority. This is why Israel took the decision to confiscate the PA's funds — it was an attempt to push it over the brink. The PA would either collapse, or chaos would have taken hold of the West Bank, driving the PA to back down and yield to Israel's will.

By exerting financial pressure on the PA, Israel hopes it will directly request the release of the money from the Israeli government or through international mediators, so that the anticipated Palestinian state must pay a high price upon its establishment.

In the foreseeable future, Israel plans to release the funds in return for "passing" the settlement plan.

Thus, the ideal solution for the PA would lie in fulfilling its obligations towards its citizens, based on its own capabilities and Arab support. That is why the PA turned to the Arabs to provide a safety net, which was endorsed 10 years ago at the Beirut summit. But the Arabs are not united, and do not commit to the decisions they issue in their successive summits.

Also, Palestinian attempts to achieve self sufficiency, started three years ago, have failed. The Europeans ceased to provide cover when the Palestinian government was betting on a large margin of differentiation between the US and EU positions, and upheld the prospect of reaching economic liberalization without achieving political liberalization. Thus, it can be said that the PA now is in dire need of regional political cover in order to pursue its project to seize the state in the West Bank and free it from the Israeli occupation.

How do we liberate ourselves from occupation? This is still the most important question. Even the Palestinian liberation movement could not have survived without regional cover, which was represented by the presence of an Arab regime, international allies and the resistance. The movement would not have survived without the support and care it received from the resistance regime, and even the Hamas regime in Gaza, as well as internal tax money and political and financial support from the Islamist allies and others.

As for the PA, it is in a very difficult situation after the Europeans abandoned it politically and financially. Some say that the Palestinian resources — whether [the resources] deep under the ground or above it in the West Bank, in the two gas fields in Gaza, or within the hands of its youth — are able to provide for the needs of the people. However, Israel’s robbery of the two gas wells, its ongoing quest to destroy Gaza and preventing it from acting as a supportive force in the battle to liberate the West Bank, or its seizure of the West Bank’s water and tourism resources and the impoundment of its economic growth make the battle really complicated and difficult. However, fighting the battle is inevitable at all times.

Israel closed the doors politically on the Oslo Accord by not reaching a final solution through negotiations, and it has annulled the Paris Agreement by confiscating the PA’s tax money. Therefore, a confrontational battle has been unleashed.

Obviously, Israel is preparing for a solution that is not based on negotiation, which must recognize the existence of a partner that, in turn, might materialize into an independent state. Israel seeks to achieve a solution by imposing the facts on the ground, and removing Jerusalem in particular from the battle, as if to say to the Palestinians that the UN resolution is mere ink on paper.

Will Qatar really turn into a regional state and continue to play a central, regional role through the PA this time, and thus consolidate its power in the West Bank as it has done in Gaza? Or will it play with fire and venture into the forbidden?

There is news that the emir of Qatar, who will visit Ramallah, will put an end to the PA’s financial crisis. Perhaps for that very reason, Israel has responded by saying that the emir’s visit requires its approval. Thus, Israel put the element of blackmail and bargaining on the emir’s table even before he arrives.

The fate of everyone — meaning the Palestinians and Arabs — is at stake now. It’s either an Arab Spring that includes Palestine, or a permanent fall whose frustrations will affect all, and not exclude anyone.

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