Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns Israel’s decision to withhold 597 million shekels (ca. US$182 million) in tax revenue collected last year and owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The decision, approved by the Israeli cabinet on 11 July 2021, allows the Israeli government to withhold up to 50 million shekels (ca. US$15 million) per month as of August.
For nearly three decades, Israel has collected taxes—known in Palestine and Israel as ‘maqasa’—on behalf of the PA as specified in the 1994 Protocol on Economic Relations, also called the Paris Protocol. In July 2018, the Israeli Parliament passed a bill allowing the Israeli government to withhold an amount of tax revenue equal to what the PA pays to Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and their families as well as to the families of Palestinian martyrs. Since then, the Israeli government has routinely subjected tax revenue owed to the PA to deductions as part of its retaliatory system against prisoners’ families. According to a statement by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mohammed Shtayyeh, since 2019 the Israeli government has withheld 851 million shekels (ca. US$ 260 million) in tax revenue.
Al Mezan condemns Israel’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. Al Mezan also stresses that the decision is blatantly aimed at impoverishing Palestinian prisoners and their families. Israel’s decisions to reduce, cut, or harm Palestinian sources of income have far-reaching impacts on the well-being of the entire occupied Palestinian population, especially the two million Palestinians living in the blockaded Gaza Strip, where the humanitarian suffering deliberately inflicted by the occupying power on the civilian population amounts to an unlawful collective punishment under international law.
Accordingly, Al Mezan calls on the international community to take prompt action to pressure Israel to repeal the decision to deduct tax revenues and ensure its respect for international law. The PA is also urged to reconsider aspects of the Paris Protocol that serve as the basis for Israel’s political blackmail.