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Israel OK's transfer of Palestinian tax funds

(Xinhua)

13:55, December 01, 2011

JERUSALEM, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved on Wednesday the transfer of Palestinian tax money, frozen since the Palestinians obtained UNESCO's full membership, despite Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's strong opposition.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Office confirmed to Xinhua the government's decision to handover the money to Palestinian authorities.

At the beginning of the month, in a punitive measure, Israel halted the monthly transfer of revenues it collects on behalf the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), estimated at 100 million U.S. dollars, after UNESCO's recognition of Palestine as a full member.

The PNA recently declared that it was unable to pay the salaries of much of its security forces due to the block, which many in the Israeli parliament and security echelon deemed counterproductive.

During a parliamentary meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu hinted that the government may unblock the funds despite the Fatah and Hamas' meeting over the weekend.

He minimized the importance of the last round of talks between the two Palestinian factions, saying they are "much more of a tactical and ceremonial process and there has been no concrete result (from the talks)."

Netanyahu also decided to unfreeze the revenue money because of the PNA's unilateral diplomatic steps towards achieving recognition at the UN.

Lieberman strongly opposed the funds transfer on the grounds that it will revert to terrorist activities. Earlier this month, he warned the government that the transfer may cause his party to step down from the coalition, but he retracted during Sunday's meeting.

"We won't quit the government and we won't create a crisis, but we will do everything we can to prevent the money from being transferred," he said.

Lieberman's office refused to comment on the government's recent decision.

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