Palestinians snub tax handover by Israel over annexation plan

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinians said on Wednesday they were rejecting taxes collected on their behalf by Israel, an escalation of measures in protest of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The taxes, managed by Israel under 1990s accords, make up over half of the budget of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians snubbed the handovers for several months last year after Israel trimmed the cash in retaliation for their funding for the families of jailed or slain militants.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having last month secured a new government, and annexing the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and Jordan Valley on the agenda, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared bilateral deals null.

Ibrahim Melhem, spokesman for the Palestinian government, said in a statement that it had rejected the May tax levies “in compliance with the leadership decision to stop all forms of coordination with Israel”.

Israel’s Finance Ministry declined comment.

It was not immediately clear how the PA, its economy already hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, could function should it continue doing without the around $190 million in monthly taxes.

Abbas previously said his security forces would stop helping Israel stem violence in the West Bank, among territories where the Palestinians, with international support, seek statehood.

Abbas’ peace talks with Israel stalled in 2014 and he is boycotting the Trump administration for perceived bias. Israel and the United States appear to prefer to see the PA stay afloat rather than West Bank Palestinians revert to full Israeli rule.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams; Editing by Leslie Adler