Israel may resume tax payments to new PA government - Livni
Foreign minister tells European counterparts government will resume transfers of tax revenue it collects on behalf of Palestinians if Fayyad’s administration commits to goal of future Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday Israel will resume payments of Palestinian tax revenues if West Bank government supports Israel's right to exist.
Livni, who met with the EU ministers in Luxembourg, said her government would resume transfers of tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians if Salam Fayyad’s new government committed to the goal of a future Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel.
The new government, she said, “can send the message of hope.”
“We are willing to work with those who support the goal of the two-state solution,” Livni said. If the Fayyad administration commits to that “Israel will ... of course release” hundreds of millions in tax money that it froze while Hamas was part of the Palestinian government.
The foreign minister said the Middle East was living “a moment of truth, a moment of decision for those who support the idea of a two-state solution as a goal, for those who support the values that Israel and the international community share and (for) the camp of moderates.”
The European Union, for its part, said it would resume direct aid to Fayyad’s new Palestinian government and urged Israel to restore the transfer of tax revenue to his West Bank administration.
Reacting to a dramatic new situation in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the 27-nation bloc will resume direct aid that was frozen more than a year ago after the stridently anti-Israel Hamas movement came to power.
Solana said the EU planned to deliver aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip through the United Nations or an existing temporary program that bypasses the Hamas leadership there.
'We have to continue helping Palestinians'
The bloc will continue to try to isolate Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last week, prompting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-Fatah unity government and establish a new, Fatah-led administration to govern the West Bank.
“In order to help the Palestinian people in Gaza, we will need some mechanism that cannot be a direct support” given that Hamas is sworn to destroy the Jewish state, Solana said during the meeting.
The EU foreign ministers’ meeting with Livni was planned long before last week’s power grab by Hamas. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said aid to Fayyad’s West Bank government can only be given if it commits to sound bookkeeping. There was no immediate word on when the EU assistance would resume.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the meeting’s chairman, criticized Hamas for last week’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, which left the Palestinians physically divided and under rival leaderships.
“I think that it is mainly to Hamas that we have to look when we have to point the finger at someone,” Steinmeier said.
The Gaza-West Bank division has complicated matters for the EU, the Palestinians’ largest source of foreign aid. The Europeans side with the Fatah movement, calling Abbas the president of all of the 4.3 million Palestinians.
Yet the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip - now ruled by Islamic Hamas, a group sworn to destroy Israel - are more dire than in the West Bank. Gaza is home to 1.4 million people.
“As far as Gaza is concerned we have to continue helping the Palestinian people,” said Solana. “We cannot let them down at this moment.”