Time: 12pm (local time)
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned by the Israeli government’s decision to withhold $138m in tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA). On Sunday, 17 February 2019, the Israeli cabinet approved the decision to use a law passed in July 2018 that allows Israel to withhold an amount of tax revenue equal to what the PA pays to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and to their families. Al Mezan condemns the Israeli government’s decision and stresses that it is in violation of international law and bilateral agreements and an infringement on public finance used for social support of families who lost their main provider.
Israel collects taxes on behalf of the PA as part of the Paris Protocol, signed between both parties in 1994. The 2018 law, which went through several readings from June 2017, allows the Israeli government to withhold the tax revenue provided that the Israeli Minister of Defense shares an annual report to the Ministerial Committee for National Security indicating a sum of funds paid by the PA to prisoners and their families. The Committee is authorized to release the withheld tax money in case the Minister of Defense presents another report confirming that the PA will not pay salaries to Palestinian prisoners and their families.
Al Mezan recalls that on 29 November 2012 Palestine gained the legal status that allows it to exercise sovereignty over designated territory and financial resources. As such, the withholding of tax revenue is in violation of Palestinian sovereignty, as well as in breach of both the Paris Protocol and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, in which Article 27 states that: “A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty”.
Further, Al Mezan stresses that the decision is blatantly aimed at impoverishing prisoners and their families. Al Mezan reiterates that all decisions to reduce, cut, or harm Palestinian sources of income lead to further humanitarian suffering among the population, especially in the blockaded Gaza Strip as well as in northern governorates—which may amount to collective punishment outlawed by international conventions. Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to take prompt action to pressure Israeli authorities to repeal the decision to withhold tax revenues and to counter any plan or action to undermine the PA, including through economic means.