JERUSALEM, AP -Israeli officials on Sunday agreed to make an overdue payment of about $45 million owed to the Palestinians, but said future transfers will be halted once the militant group Hamas forms the next Palestinian government.
Israel froze the payment last week to protest Hamas’ recent victory in Palestinian legislative elections. Officials said at the time that they wanted assurances that the money would not be used for suicide bombings. Hamas, which remains committed to Israel’s destruction, is expected to form a new government in the coming weeks.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Zeev Boim said the money was being transferred because Hamas is not yet part of the government.
“If and when Hamas rises to power and supports policies according to its jihad principles of destroying Israel, not another dollar will be transferred,” he said.
Under existing peace accords, Israel collects millions of dollars of taxes for the Palestinians each month, then transfers the money to the Palestinians.
The money is essential for the Palestinian Authority, which employs about 137,000 government workers. Last week’s decision to freeze the payment deepened a crisis for the Palestinians, who had to seek emergency aid from Arab allies to meet their payroll.
Israel’s threat to withhold future payments could put new pressure on Hamas to modify its violent ideology. So far, it has rejected calls from Israel and the international community to disarm, renounce violence and recognize Israel.