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Palestinian authority struggles to contain strikes

PNA starts a campaign to boycott all Israeli goods

Gulf News

Ramallah: The cash-strapped Palestinian National Authority has turned to local banks in an attempt to pay the wages of striking Palestinian workers amid an Israeli campaign to squeeze the governing body.

The PNA has been trying to persuade local Palestinian banks to provide them with loans against guarantees from Arab states as it tries to fulfil its obligation towards the large number of West Bank Palestinians who rely on the authority for their income.

The PNA has also announced campaigns to start a boycott of Israeli products in the West Bank as a response to Israel’s withholding of millions of dollars of Palestinian tax revenue. Israel collects some $100 million of tax revenue on behalf of the PNA every month as per the Oslo Accords and the Paris Financial Protocols, but has withheld the money as punishment for the PNA’s attempt to gain UN observer status for the State of Palestine earlier this month.

Palestinian public workers have staged general strikes for non-payment of wages. Strikes were called on Wednesday and yesterday and another one is planned for Sunday.

The Palestinian government has said that it is working to allocate funds to pay wages, or at least part of them, to persuade the workers to resume their jobs by the beginning of the coming week.

Israel had announced earlier this month that it had instead transferred 450 million Shekels of Palestinian funds to the Israeli electric company which provides the southern parts of West Bank with electricity. Israel argued that it was settling unpaid bills.

“The Israeli attitude has deepened the already bad PNA financial situation,” said Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister during an emergency cabinet meeting held in Ramallah.

“The Palestinian government and leadership urge the Palestinian public to boycott all the Israeli products effective immediately,” he said. “This is a natural and legitimate Palestinian reaction for the Israeli piracy which target the daily bread, and right of life of the Palestinians,” he added.

The Palestinian population under occupation serves as a large and important consumer market for Israeli products. Palestinians rely on Israeli brands for various daily needs and constitute an important contributor to the Israeli economy.

“It should be clearly understood that the Israeli withholding of the Palestinian tax revenues seriously threatens the PNA sole existence and ends up with the PNA totally unable to meet its duties and responsibilities,” he stressed.

Fayyad urged the Arab states to implement the recommendations of the Arab Summit and provide with immediate effect that promised a safety net of $100 million, and to strengthen and expand this safety net to $240 million.