Kuwait: Many in UN oppose Israel action on Palestinian taxes
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An “overwhelming” number of U.N. Security Council members oppose Israel’s decision to deduct money that Palestinians transfer to the families of people killed, injured or imprisoned for attacks on Israel from their monthly tax revenue, Kuwait’s U.N. ambassador said Friday.
Mansour Al-Otaibi told reporters after a closed-door council meeting that Israel’s action was “in violation of existing bilateral agreements.”
U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt came to New York from Washington to defend close ally Israel.
He told the council that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to reject the latest tax transfer was only hurting the Palestinian people because they were rejecting the 95 percent of the tax revenue that Israel is not withholding, according to a diplomat at the meeting.
Greenblatt said it was “inappropriate” to focus on Israel, which was withholding 5 percent to 7 percent of the monthly tax revenue because of the Palestinian Authority’s “abhorrent practice” of paying that money “to terrorists and their families,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private.
“The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept over $150 million in revenue to protest the fact that $11 million is being withheld, only to make a political point,” the diplomat quoted Greenblatt as saying. “Does that sound like a governing authority that is concerned with the welfare of its people?”
Kuwait’s Mansour, who called for the Security Council consultations along with Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador Dian Djani, said the Palestinians “have the right ... to do whatever they want with their money.”
He said U.N. Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov, who briefed the council by video, said “there is a need for mediation on this to solve it.”
Mansour said an “overwhelming” number of members on the 15-nation Security Council “think that this is a unilateral decision, it’s not acceptable, it’s a violation of the Oslo agreement and Paris protocol, and this is Palestinian money.”
Indonesia’s Djani said Israel’s suspension of international observers in Hebron coupled with the withholding tax revenue were making things “more and more difficult once again for the Palestinian people — so that’s why we are raising this issue, because we don’t want to continue to escalate an issue.”
The diplomat said Greenblatt told the council that members who disagree with Israel’s decision to withhold the customs revenues were free to discuss it with the Israeli government.
But in the meantime, the diplomat said, Greenblatt asked the Security Council to send a united message to the Palestinian Authority to stop “its irresponsible decision to reject the transfer of the remaining funds.”
Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington