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Lawmakers encourage Biden to prioritize Israeli agreement with Palestinian Authority

Rebecca Barnabi
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Several members of Congress are sounding the alarm and encouraging President Joe Biden to prioritize Israel’s resumption of a longstanding agreement the Palestinian Authority.

The agreement helps fund critical civil administration and security needs.

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, led Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Carper of Delaware, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon in sounding the alarm about the economic deterioration in the West Bank and the troubling rise in violent acts perpetrated by extremist Israeli settlers.

In a letter to President Biden, the lawmakers stressed the need for Israel to take steps to address the growing instability in the West Bank, including by ensuring that the Palestinian Security Forces are able to ward off violence against innocent Palestinian civilians and prevent further destabilization, which could open an additional front to the conflict.

The letter follows a decision by Israel to withhold a significant portion of tax revenues that its government collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The revenues are meant to be collected and transferred based on longstanding agreement, and are critical for the PA’s civil administration and security purposes.

“A range of factors since October 7 — including a loss of wages for the thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank whose work permits Israel revoked — have contributed to an economic situation that has shuttered thousands of West Bank businesses and reduced the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) revenues by roughly 80 percent. Those revenues support a range of critical functions for the PA, including paying public-worker salaries as well as the salaries of members of the Palestinian Security Forces, whose local law enforcement and security efforts are critical to maintaining stability in the West Bank,” the Senators wrote. “A significant source of the PA’s revenue derives from Palestinian import tax revenues, which according to long-standing agreement, the Israeli government collects on behalf of, and then transfers to, the PA. We are concerned that the Israeli government’s decision following the October 7 attacks to withhold a significant portion of these revenues, and the PA’s decision to not accept the reduced sum, is dramatically exacerbating the economic volatility in the West Bank.”

The letter continues that volatility is harming the well-being of Palestinians and the lack of revenue threatens the economic standing of the security services in the West Bank.

“Absent these funds, salaries for the more than 30,000 members of the Palestinian Security Forces cannot be paid in full. The possibility of these forces declining to serve, absent pay – and the possibility of militant groups attempting to step in and financially coerce these services – represents a significant security threat, risking the opening of a new front to this conflict to the detriment of Israeli and regional security,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you and senior members of your Administration to continue to prioritize the resumption of these transfers in any conversations with the Israeli government as well as Palestinian Authority officials. A commitment by Israel to immediately transfer the full allotment of Palestinian Authority revenues is vital to staving off a significant rise in instability and would represent a crucial step by Israel towards deescalating tensions in the West Bank.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.