Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of "gangsterism" on Wednesday over its decision to withhold the transfer of more than $100 million a month in tax revenues it collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
The comments were made when the PLO's Central Council convened in Ramallah on Wednesday morning to hold deliberations on policy ahead of the Israeli elections on March 17.
"How are they allowed to take away our money? Are we dealing with a state or with a gangster?" he asked a gathering of the Palestine Liberation Organization's central council, its second-highest decision-making body.
The council discussed the security coordination with Israeli authorities and potential diplomatic steps, including the ongoing efforts at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Central Council, led by Salim Zanoun, has 124 members from the West Bank, Gaza, and abroad. At the opening of the conference, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comprehensively addressed recent developments in the conflict.
The committee met after weeks of intense American pressure on Abbas – in part to assure the Palestinian Authority does not take any hasty measures which could affect the election in Israel. Consequently, Abbas refrained from addressing the security cooperation with Israel during his speech.
Abbas said the Palestinians received an offer for Israel to release the PA's frozen tax funds if they backed out of their efforts at the ICC in The Hague, but that the offer was rebuffed.
"The international court in The Hague is the only place in which we can raise our complaints over the occupation. They told us that if we do not go to The Hague they will return our money. We refuse to trade our bid at The Hague for tax money," he said.
The Palestinian president claimed Israel was withholding 1.8 billion shekels.
Abbas said the Palestinians would resume the negotiations with Israel if construction in the settlements is frozen and security detainees are released. He claimed Israel has not honored its commitments with the Palestinians. "We must examine how to maintain the PA and whether all parties commit to the agreements and not only one side."
The PA president stressed the Palestinians would not surrender but would not resort to violence either. "A peaceful, popular resistance is our way."
Abbas claimed Israel paused all progress because of the "excuse" that election was near. "We do not intervene in the Israeli elections and we are willing to negotiate with any person who the people of Israel elect. We do not care who wins."
However, he praised the alliance between the Arab lists and wished them success on March 17. He then reiterated that the Palestinians were committed to the peace process and vehemently opposed terrorism.
"The recognition by parliaments in European countries does not mean we no longer wish to negotiate or are avoiding talks," he said, and called on countries across the world to continue recognizing Palestinian sovereignty.
Abbas briefly addressed the Islamic State terror group, condemning the murderous acts of the jihadi collective, including the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot and the killing of 21 Egyptians in Libya.