Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

ANNEXATION OF PALESTINE

Palestine restoring ties with Israel means tax funds and eased travel

For the last six months, the Palestinian Authority has had no relations with Israeli authorities, but restoring relations could see a tangible impact on everyday lives in the West Bank

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to resume co-ordination with Israel after a six-month hiatus will allow for vital cash flows to the occupied West Bank, while also offering an olive branch to US President-elect Joe Biden after years of severed ties with Washington.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday that contact with the Israelis would be restored on “financial issues, on health issues, on political issues, on anything that Israel is ready for.”

Such co-ordination was scrapped in May as the Palestinian Authority protested plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex vast areas of the West Bank.

The territorial takeover was part of a border US peace plan, but the move was met with widespread international criticism and a reluctance to give the green light in Washington. A deal to normalise relations with the UAE saw Mr Netanyahu agree to a freeze annexation, a move hailed by Emirati officials as ending the attempt to extend Israeli law to the West Bank settlements seen as illegal under international law.

Severing security ties between the Palestinian Authority and Israel had an immediate financial impact, with the Palestinians refusing to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue collected by Israel on its behalf.

The budget hit prompted the Palestinian Authority to cut civil servants’ salaries and hindered its ability to administer the parts of the West Bank under its control.

The lack of security co-operation has also made it difficult for Palestinians to obtain permits to enter Israeli territory or cross into Jordan, hampering access to medical care.

This has also affected the thousands of Palestinian babies born in recent months who have not been registered by Israeli authorities, making it incredibly difficult for their parents to obtain the necessary paperwork to cross Israeli checkpoints.

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At least two babies with heart conditions died in June after delays transferring them from Gaza to receive urgent medical care, the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said in July.

While neither side has stated when co-ordination will resume, a letter dated 17 November and addressed to Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh confirmed Israel’s willingness to restore ties.

"Israel continues to collect taxes for the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, it was the Palestinian Authority which decided not to receive these collected funds from Israel,” said the letter signed by Kamil Abu Rukun, head of Cogat, the Israeli liaison agency to the Palestinian territories.

A Cogat spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the correspondence, which was published by the Joint List alliance of Arab-Israeli lawmakers.

Beyond boosting the Palestinians’ budget and easing travel, the resumption of co-ordination comes amid hopes that the US election results could thaw a freeze in US-Palestinian relations.

“We look forward to constructive bilateral US-Palestinian relations towards achieving a just and lasting peace,” Mr Shtayyeh wrote on Twitter as he congratulated Mr Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.

President Donald Trump’s administration closed the Palestinian Authority office in Washington and has taken a series of controversial measures, including recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and stating it no longer considers settlements in the West Bank illegal.

Such steps have been lauded by the Israeli government and widely criticised by the international community.

While Biden is unlikely to reverse all of Trump’s policy changes, such as the 2018 opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the new administration is expected to reinstate funding to the Palestinians that was cut by his predecessors.

Updated: November 18, 2020 03:20 PM

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