Netanyahu to Release Palestinian Tax Revenue Amid U.S. Pressure

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the release of Palestinian tax revenue frozen by Israel, as he seeks to defuse tensions with the U.S. over his commitment to peace talks.

Netanyahu approved recommendations by the Defense Ministry and the Shin Bet security service to transfer sums collected in January and February, the premier’s office said in a statement sent to reporters. Israel will first deduct payments for electricity and other services provided to Palestinians, it said.

Israel announced on Jan. 3 it was freezing the monthly transfer of about 500 million shekels ($127 million) in sales and customs taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, after President Mahmoud Abbas advanced a plan to bring war crimes charges against Israel. The tax cutoff was criticized by the U.S. and European Union.

Netanyahu’s ties with the U.S. government have been strained by his opposition to Iran nuclear talks and cooperation with President Barack Obama’s congressional opponents. Obama has signaled that the U.S. may reconsider its backing for Israel at the United Nations, after Netanyahu made comments during his successful re-election campaign this month that appeared to rule out a Palestinian state.

“We are still waiting for an official statement from the Israelis,” Ehab Bessaiso, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, said by phone.

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