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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Israel has made similar threats in the past, but they were withdrawn and ultimately the funds were transferred.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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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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