Israel imposes more sanctions on Palestinians
JERUSALEM -- Israel imposed a series of economic sanctions against the Palestinians Thursday amid a deadlock in peace negotiations.
Israel will not transfer to the Palestinians the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and said it would use the money to cover Palestinian debts to Israel.
Israel transfers about $100 million per month in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian debts to Israel include $150 million to Israel’s electric company.
Israel has halted transfers before, as retribution for Palestinian actions, including President Mahmoud Abbas’ overture to the United Nations in 2012 that gave the Palestinians status as a non-member observer state.
Israel also will place restrictions on deposits made by Palestinian banks in the Israeli banking system, and suspend participation in developing a natural gas field off Gazan shores.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week ordered all high-level contacts between Israeli ministers and their Palestinian counterparts halted, aside from those relating to security and peace talks.
Hours before the announcement of sanctions, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators concluded another meeting with U.S. mediator Martin Indyk, the third in recent days in an attempt to seek an end to the crisis in the talks.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that Indyk would return to the U.S. for consultations. The gaps between the parties were narrowing, she said, but “speculation on agreement to extend the peace talks is premature.”
Negotiations broke down after Israel delayed, then canceled, the planned release of a group of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian Authority applied to the United Nations for membership in more than a dozen international agencies.
Despite the deep concern, Israeli and Palestinian leaders say they are interested in continuing the process and are looking to end the current crisis in a way that will allow extending the talks past April.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.
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