Norway urges Israel to fully release Palestinian tax transfers

Author: Gwadis Fouch

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gall Storey urged Israel on Monday to release all tax transfers withheld from the Palestinian Authority (PA), saying the payments were “vital” for the well-being of the Palestinian people.

Norway chairs the International Donors Group on the Palestinian Territories, known as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. It was the mediator in the 1992-93 talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that led to the Oslo Accords, which set out limited self-protection rules for Palestinians.

On November 2, Israel said it would continue to transfer taxes to the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but would withhold funds flowing to Hamas-ruled Gaza, where the Palestinian Authority helps pay public sector wages and electricity bills.

Israel’s decision comes after an internal cabinet debate over whether to proceed with the handover as Israel battles Hamas militants who rule the Gaza Strip.

On November 6, the Palestinian Authority stated that it would not accept partial transfers from Israel and expected to spend approximately 30% of its budget in Gaza and to pay for medical and social assistance programs.

“We call on Israel to maintain the agreed transfers of Palestinian value creation because these are tax, value-added tax and (revenue) fiscal sources,” Storey told Reuters in an interview in Oslo.

He said tax transfers help provide basic services in Gaza and the West Bank, so withholding them “directly affects the well-being and health of the Palestinian people.”

“Norway is very clear that any developments leading to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority will only serve the extremist forces on the Palestinian side,” he added.

Storey did not disclose the value of the seized funds, but said it was “a significant amount of money.”

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority exercises limited autonomy in the West Bank but does not govern Gaza, where Islamist rival Hamas seized control in a brief civil war in 2007. Thousands of Gaza civil servants remain on the Palestinian Authority’s payroll.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche from Oslo; Editing by Christina Finch)

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