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Israel to freeze Palestinian tax fund after Unesco vote

Israel is to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure after Palestine was granted full membership in Unesco

Occupied Jerusalem: Israel is to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure after Palestine was granted full membership in Unesco, a senior official said on Tuesday.

"It was ... decided to temporarily freeze the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority, until a final decision is taken," he told AFP, referring to the monthly transfer by Israel of hundreds of thousands of shekels in tax monies owed to the Palestinian leadership.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Forum of Eight senior ministers, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "as punishment after the vote at Unesco," the official said.

Tens of millions of dollars a month

Every month, Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority tens of millions of dollars in customs duties which are levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.

Israel often freezes the transfer of funds as a punitive measure in response to diplomatic or political developments viewed as harmful.

The last time the monies were frozen was in May shortly after the Fatah movement signed an unexpected unity deal with Hamas, the movement which rules the Gaza Strip in a move which drew an angry reaction from Israel.

Full member

The decision to freeze the tax funds was taken a day after the UN cultural organisation voted to accept Palestine as a full member, despite strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

Both Washington and Israel had lobbied the organisation to delay the vote, with the Jewish state warning that the membership bid was unilateral and would jeopardise the chances of reviving negotiations.

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