is considering resuming the transfer of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority that were halted
following Palestinian unilateral steps in the international arena, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected Netanyahu's statement saying that Yisrael Beiteinu will do everything in its power to prevent the transfer of funds to the PA.
"I want our position to be very clear: I hear many infantile claims such as 'it’s their money, on what right do we hold the Palestinians' money'" Lieberman said at a faction meeting. "It's as if they are allowed to murder or preach to the murder of Jews with their money."
State officials said that if the government indeed decides to resume the payments it will review the matter every month.
"We have no intention of driving the PA into collapse and Israel will exercise judgment on all finance issue," a state official said.
As part of the Oslo Accords it was agreed that Israel will provide the PA with tax payments it collects on its behalf. Foreign leaders have urged Israel to reinstate the funds transfer since Israel halted payments two months ago.
Netanyahu addresses Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Sunday that the continued suspension of the tax transfers "has both an immediate impact on the lives of all employees and their dependents, some 1 million people ... (and) has a devastating indirect impact throughout the whole economy."
Netanyahu addressed the PA's bid for statehood at the committee meeting. "We have managed to prevent forecasts with international activity. We detect a calming effect on the Palestinian side. They have decided to halt the steps. We didn't even need a veto at the Security Council. It is in their interest to halt (activities). "
Abbas and Mashaal in Cairo. 'No results' (Photo: AFP)
The prime minister also addressed the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' recent meeting with Khaled Mashaal in Cairo. "We see that the talks have more of a tactical and ceremonial significance than concrete results."
Benetton ad showing Netanyahu, Abbas kissing (Photo: AFP)
When MK Amir Peretz (Labor) told Netanyahu the people need to see him pictured with Abbas "to cool the atmosphere" the prime minister replied in jest: "actually there is such a photo and it doesn't necessarily calm the spirits." He was referring to a Benetton ad showing himself and Abbas kissing.
On the issue of Turkey, Netanyahu said Israel is interested in resuming diplomatic ties with Ankara. "Let me stress this again, we did not bring about this situation with Turkey, we gave our support after the earthquake. There are all sorts of efforts on this issue."
Elections in Egypt. PM hopes to 'stabilize peace treaty' (Photo: Reuters)
Speaking before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu also commented on the current state in the Arab world. "We are witnessing an Islamist wave washing over the Arab world after decades of stable military rule," he said.
"Some call it the 'Arab Spring', you can name it after any other season. We are facing uncertain times. One cannot estimate how long it will take until things stabilize. We must act responsibly and carefully. This is not the time for rash actions."
Netanyahu said the "Islamist wave" was "not good for us" adding "the stability we have known will change in the coming years – whether it be the US' withdrawal from Iraq or Libya's weapons cache. It’s going to be a bigger challenge for Israel. It reflects directly on our security needs."
Referring to elections in Egypt, Netanyahu said he hoped to stabilize the peace treaty and is working to that end with the US.
The prime minister confirmed he had ordered to delay the reconstruction of the Mugrabi Bridge connecting the Western Wall and the Temple Mount but denied this was due to Jordanian or Egyptian pressure. "The situation is sensitive, I thought this was not the week for it."
He also accused committee chairman MK Shaul Mofaz of delaying the transfer of NIS 600 million to the Defense Ministry saying part of the funds are meant to finance the construction of a fence on the southern border.
Netanyahu said a fence will provide a partial solution for the infiltration problem.