Why Israel's Tax-Freeze Threat Against Palestinians Is Different This Time

Street scene in Hebron
Street scene in Hebron
Dani Rubinstein

TEL AVIV — After Israel announced plans to freeze the transfer of $126 million in taxes it collected for the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah attended a round of meetings in Saudi Arabia to nurture solidarity for his government.

And they obliged. The Arab States promised that if Israel wouldn't transfer the money, the Gulf countries would provide the Palestinian Authority $25 million every month. Freezing the funds is another step in the escalating political power struggle between the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel has made similar threats in the past, but they were withdrawn and ultimately the funds were transferred. Even if the Palestinian Authority's stability is clearly in the interest of Israel, it could collapse if deprived of these critical revenues. In the face of previous threats, Abbas has warned that the Authority could be dissolved.

Without it, Israel would have to bear the responsibility of funding services in the territories. Furthermore, Israel would have to cope without the assistance of the Palestinian services that help coordinate security between the two sides.

But unlike the cases of previous threats, there appears to be little suggestion this time that the Palestinians and Israelis will resolve the situation. This may represent Israel's first significant response to the Palestinian appeal to The Hague's International Court of Justice. Moreover, with the elections approaching, Netanyahu is unlikely to back down.

Israel is capable of taking a significant series of economic measures against the Palestinian Authority since it almost completely contols it. Some 80% of the exports from the West Bank and Gaza are to Israel. The Palestinians buy from or through Israel all of their basic necessities, and 150,000 of them are working in the Israeli market.

The annual budget of the Palestinian government is $4 billion, 40% of which is funded by taxes collected by Israel for the Palestinians. Additionally, Israel gives back to the authority the Value Added Tax (VAT) that Palestinians pay in Israel. The rest of the budget is funded by donations from abroad and by taxes and tolls collected by the Palestinian government itself. The income tax represents only 7% of the budget.

The Israeli treasury transfers the money to the government in Ramallah every month. The amount primarily covers Palestinian government salaries, including for people employed by the security forces, and the education and health systems. The budget also covers monthly pension payments to the families of security prisoners and victims.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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