Kelly and Colleagues Sound the Alarm About Economic Deterioration in the West Bank
The Senators urge President Biden to prioritize Israel’s resumption of a longstanding agreement with the Palestinian Authority that helps fund critical civil administration and security needs
U.S. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) joined Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE) Jack Reed (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) 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 can protect innocent Palestinian civilians and prevent further destabilization, which could open an additional front to the conflict.
This 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). These revenues – meant to be collected and transferred based on longstanding agreement – 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,” wrote the Senators. “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.”
“In addition to harming the well-being of Palestinians, the current lack of revenue transfers directly 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,” they continued. “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.”
A copy of the letter is available here.