Kuwait: Many in UN oppose Israel action on Palestinian taxes

A man helps a wounded youth, who was shot by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, into the treatment room of Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Updated 09 March 2019

Kuwait: Many in UN oppose Israel action on Palestinian taxes

  • Israel deducts money that Palestinians transfer to the families of people killed, injured or imprisoned for attacks on Israel from their monthly tax revenue
  • Kuwait’s UN ambassador says Israel’s action was “in violation of existing bilateral agreements”

UNITED NATIONS: An “overwhelming” number of UN Security Council members oppose Israel’s decision to deduct money that Palestinians transfer to the families of people killed, injured or imprisoned for attacks on Israel from their monthly tax revenue, Kuwait’s UN ambassador said Friday.
Mansour Al-Otaibi told reporters after a closed-door council meeting that Israel’s action was “in violation of existing bilateral agreements.”
US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt came to New York from Washington to defend close ally Israel.
He told the council that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to reject the latest tax transfer was only hurting the Palestinian people because they were rejecting the 95 percent of the tax revenue that Israel is not withholding, according to a diplomat at the meeting.
Greenblatt said it was “inappropriate” to focus on Israel, which was withholding 5 percent to 7 percent of the monthly tax revenue because of the Palestinian Authority’s “abhorrent practice” of paying that money “to terrorists and their families,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private.
“The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept over $150 million in revenue to protest the fact that $11 million is being withheld, only to make a political point,” the diplomat quoted Greenblatt as saying. “Does that sound like a governing authority that is concerned with the welfare of its people?“
Kuwait’s Mansour, who called for the Security Council consultations along with Indonesia’s UN Ambassador Dian Djani, said the Palestinians “have the right ... to do whatever they want with their money.”
He said UN Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov, who briefed the council by video, said “there is a need for mediation on this to solve it.”
Mansour said an “overwhelming” number of members on the 15-nation Security Council “think that this is a unilateral decision, it’s not acceptable, it’s a violation of the Oslo agreement and Paris protocol, and this is Palestinian money.”
Indonesia’s Djani said Israel’s suspension of international observers in Hebron coupled with the withholding tax revenue were making things “more and more difficult once again for the Palestinian people — so that’s why we are raising this issue, because we don’t want to continue to escalate an issue.”
The diplomat said Greenblatt told the council that members who disagree with Israel’s decision to withhold the customs revenues were free to discuss it with the Israeli government.
But in the meantime, the diplomat said, Greenblatt asked the Security Council to send a united message to the Palestinian Authority to stop “its irresponsible decision to reject the transfer of the remaining funds.”


Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

Updated 34 min 20 sec ago

Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

  • Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon
  • His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader called Friday for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power as two protesters were killed in ongoing confrontations with security forces in a central Baghdad square.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority.
His comments came as two protesters were killed when police fired live ammunition and tear gas at hundreds of protesters who removed concrete barriers and streamed into Khilani Square, which has been at the center of clashes for the past days.
Friday’s deaths brought to three the number of protesters killed in the past 24 hours.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
Demonstrations have mostly been taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir and Khilani squares and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces, following tough measures by Iraqi security forces to calm down on protests.
The powerful cleric, who’s opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders with “new faces.”
“Passing a law that does not give such an opportunity to voters would be unacceptable and useless,” he said in his weekly sermon Friday.
“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” Al-Sistani said. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful,” he warned.
He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached “unbearable limits” while large segments of the population are finding it increasingly impossible to have their basic needs met while top leaders “share the country’s wealth among themselves and disregard each other’s corruption.”
“People did not go out to demonstrations calling for reform in this unprecedented way, and do not continue to do so despite the heavy price and grave sacrifices it requires, except because they found no other way to revolt against the corruption which is getting worse day after day, and the rampant deterioration on all fronts,” he said.
On Monday, Al-Sistani said he backed a roadmap by the UN mission in Iraq aimed at meeting the demands of the protesters, but expressed concern that political parties were not serious about carrying out the proposed reforms.