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Ramallah, West Bank — “Do they think they’re punishing the P.A. leadership?“ Awartani asked. “It’s the people in the streets who are being punished by Israel.”
Israeli officials counter that fallout from the tax transfer suspension is the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership, since it chose to go to the U.N. in violation of an agreed principle that all outstanding differences would be resolved through bilateral negotiations.
“The transfer of tax payments is made in the framework of signed agreements,” Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu, told the Forward. “The Palestinian leadership must understand that if it violates signed agreements, Israel reserves the right to respond.”
The tax transfer suspension hit an economy that was already reeling, and a P.A. that was already gasping, in large measure because of a steep decline in foreign donations — to $750 million dollars in 2011 and 2012 from $1.8 billion in 2008.
The World Bank said in a report last September that a chief prerequisite for the Palestinians moving toward a sustainable economy would be Israel’s allowing them to develop the sector designated as Area C, the relatively resource-rich 60% of the West Bank under direct Israeli control, where all of the Jewish settlements are located. But things are moving in the opposite direction. The settlements are expanding, and right-wing legislators such as Danny Danon of the Likud Party are calling for the settlements and open land in the West Bank to be annexed.
Meanwhile, the P.A. is struggling to maintain basic services such as schools and health in the face of strikes by employees over not getting paid or getting paid too little.
In the village of al-Khader, near Bethlehem, some P.A.-employed teachers stopped going to school because they could not afford the travel expenses, Mayor Tawfiq Salah related. “At the same time,” he said, “the pupil asks, ‘Why didn’t father give me money so I can buy in the canteen?’ So even the little ones are thinking about the economic problems.”