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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 0°C
AP/Press Association Images

Israel has punished Palestine by freezing bank accounts, leaving people penniless

Palestine applied to join the International Criminal Court, angering Israel.

PALESTINIAN HEAD TEACHER Abdelhakim Abu Jamus has just given his last shekels to his daughter for school and has nothing left to feed his family of eight.

Like tens of thousands of Palestinian public sector workers, he has not been paid since December after Israel suspended millions of dollars in tax revenues which should have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority, as punishment for joining the International Criminal Court.

“I gave my daughter the last money I had and now I don’t know how we’re going to manage tomorrow,” said Abu Jamus who runs a school in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

On 2 January, the Palestinians formally presented a request to join the Hague-based ICC in a first step towards suing Israel for war crimes.

Mideast Weather AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Israel reacted furiously, freezing $127 million (€110 million) in tax revenues that are usually transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) — a move often employed as a punitive measure during diplomatic disputes.

Under an economic agreement between the sides signed in 1994, Israel transfers to the PA tens of millions of dollars each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

Although the sanction has been imposed many times, it has rarely lasted more than one or two months, except in 2006 when Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections.

On that occasion Israel froze the funds for six months.

Blocking the money deprives the PA of more than two-thirds of its monthly budget, excluding foreign aid, and prevents it paying its roughly 180,000 employees, which costs almost $200 million (€170 million) a month.

Quick solution needed

“We know very well that Israel freezes the money for political reasons to put pressure on the Authority, but as civil servants we need to see the situation resolved quickly,” Abu Jamus said.

Dalal Yassin, who works for Palestinian television, also has not been paid since Israel froze the transfers.

But she is in a better position than most because her husband works in the private sector.

Mideast Weather AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“I see my colleagues struggling to pay their monthly bills and going through a really difficult time,” she told AFP.

The Palestinian government has managed to raise enough funds to start paying 60 percent of the December salaries “through loans, Arab aid and its own resources”.

Ahead of a major winter storm earlier this month, many Palestinians went out and bought heaters to combat a cold snap which has only just begun to ease.

Arab foreign ministers have promised to provide the Palestinians with a monthly “safety net” of $100 million (€86 million), but the commitment has rarely been activated.

In order to counter the soaring unemployment rate, the Palestinian public sector enlarged its ranks — and with it, its monthly spending on salaries.

© AFP 2015

Read: Israel warns of ‘retaliatory steps’ as Palestine signs up to International Criminal Court

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