Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tel Aviv’s decision to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) will not prevent it from seeking statehood, a senior Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat, calling on the Israeli government to “shoulder its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “The war Israel is now launching, including withholding Palestinian funds and threatening to push the US Congress into cutting aid, will not make the Palestinians back down, not one iota.”
Erekat’s comments come after the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the delivery of approximately 120 million US dollars in tax revenues to Ramallah in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s move to join the the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he hopes the Palestinians will be able to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes.
The suspension of Palestinian tax revenues by Israel has left the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership incapable of paying the salaries of approximately 175,000 public servants.
“Freedom cannot be traded for anything, and they [the Israeli government] are deluded if they think they can bring the Palestinian people to their knees through these steps,” Erekat added.
The PA applied to join the ICC earlier this month, after a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in the 1967 war was voted down.
The move to join the ICC has infuriated Israel and some in Washington and may jeopardize the 400 million dollars in aid the US provides annually to the PA.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday that the US would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they attempted to have Israel prosecuted by the ICC.
“We will push back strongly to register our displeasure. It is already part of our law that would require us to stop funding if they actually bring a case,” said Graham.
After its ICC membership comes into effect on April 1, the Palestinian government will be able to request prosecutors at The Hague to formally investigate 2014’s seven-week war between the militant group Hamas and the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip. At least 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli civilians were killed during the war in July and August.
Palestinian–Israeli ties have reached “a point of no return,” Erekat told reporters in Ramallah on Monday following a meeting with Western diplomats. He called on Israel to abide by international treaties as an occupying power.
“Palestinian–Israeli ties will never return to what they used to be before signing up to join international agencies and treaties, mainly the ICC,” he was reported as saying by the Chinese Xinhua news agency.