• irvsafdieh

Feeling Taxed, West(in) Bank, FBIsrael


Palestinians On Verge of Financial Collapse

Khaled Abu Toameh & Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, April 29th 2019

Recap:

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing imminent financial collapse over its refusal to accept tax revenues from Israel.

The Context:

  • Israel collects $190 million a month in duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transfer through its ports. It then transfers the money to the PA [1]. Israel is withholding the sum of money that the PA gives monthly to terrorists in Israeli jails and their family members. The United Nations estimates that Israel plans to withhold $140 million in 2019.

  • PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to accept any tax payments from Israel if not paid in full [2] and declared that “Israel will return our money our way.” The PA has been paying its over 200,000 public employees half salary since the start of February [3].

  • Israel views the payments to those who have carried out attacks against Israelis a direct reward for terrorism. The PA describes the payments as social welfare and Palestinians idolize prisoners jailed by Israel as heroes for their cause.

  • Palestinian officials have called on the Arab League to give the PA an economic safety cushion of $100 million per month although nothing has been confirmed [4]. The Palestinian Authority has seen a dramatic drop in direct foreign aid, which has gone from 10% of gross domestic product five years ago to 3.5% last year. In 2018, the United States cut hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid [5].

Conversation Points:

  • Whose narrative about the payments is correct? Are they a reward for terrorism or welfare for heroes of the Palestinian cause?

  • What would happen to the Abbas’ administration if it ceased martyr payments in return for receiving the full tax remittance from Israel?

  • Why are payments to jailed Palestinians and their families important to the PA?

Government to Encourage Building Hotels in Judea And Samaria

Arutz Sheva, April 30th 2019

Recap:

For the first time in the history of the settlement movement, the Tourism Ministry has made monetary grants available for the construction of hotels in Area C of the West Bank. In the past such grants could only be received within sovereign Israel [6]. The grants are intended to encourage investors to open additional guest units in the West Bank. Entrepreneurs can now submit a request for a grant of up to 20% of their intended investment.

The Context:

  • During his reelection campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements if re-elected. Over 400,000 Jews live in West Bank settlements surrounded by 2.6 million Palestinians.

  • A meeting held earlier this year between Yesha Council members and the managers of travel agencies in the West Bank showed that the number of guest units in the area is insufficient, causing tourists to avoid staying for more than a day. Tourists who want to stay overnight in West Bank settlements typically rely on private homeowners or internet services like AirBnb [7].

  • Efrat Council head Oded Reviv said the move would encourage increased tourism to the heart of biblical Israel while also showing the world “the good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs [8].”

  • Palestinians complain that further Israeli incursions into the West Bank pushes the idea of Palestinian Statehood closer to oblivion.

Conversation Points:

  • Are the hotel grants another step forward toward the annexation of West Bank settlements?

  • Should Israel refrain from building additional infrastructure in Area C even if the area is likely to be a part of sovereign Israel in a land for peace agreement?

  • Is the Israeli presence in the West Bank a barrier to peace or an easy excuse?

Amazon Reportedly Gearing Up for Israel E-Commerce Operations

Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, April 30th 2019

Recap:

Amazon will officially launch in Israel. It is still unclear whether the website will be in Hebrew or when the website will start operations.

The Context:

  • While establishing Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) operations will constitute Amazon's first direct retail operation in Israel, the company has been active in the country since 2015 when it acquired Annapurna Labs. In October 2017, Amazon announced the establishment of two research and development hubs in Israel and in January 2019, Israeli cloud computing start-up CloudEndure was acquired by Amazon [9].

  • The launch of FBM in other global locations has previously served as a precursor to the establishment of Amazon-operated warehouses [10]. Amazon currently makes deliveries to Israel through the Israeli postal system, mainly from the US and Europe, resulting in long delays and high shipping costs [11].

  • Israelis averaged two online orders per second during 2017, with the nationwide total coming to 61 million packages. Clothing and shoes, housewares, accessories, gadgets, vitamins and cosmetics topped the Israeli shopping list.

Conversation Points:

  • Why did Amazon choose to start with FBM services in Israel rather than Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA)?

Notes:

  1. World Bank Warns Palestinian Economy In ‘Crisis’ Over Tax Transfer Standoff, Times of Israel, April 17th 2019

  2. Palestinians Continue to Reject All Israeli-Collected Tax Funds, Haaretz, April 29th 2019

  3. Palestinian Official Says Pa Will Not Accept Incomplete Clearance Money, Wafa, April 29th 2019

  4. Palestinians Continue to Reject All Israeli-Collected Tax Funds, Haaretz, April 29th 2019

  5. World Bank Warns Palestinian Economy In ‘Crisis’ Over Tax Transfer Standoff, Times of Israel, April 17th 2019

  6. Israel To Offer Grants to Build Hotels in West Bank Settlements, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2019

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Amazon Set to Launch Local Retail Operations in Israel, Eytan Halon, Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2019

  10. Ibid.

  11. Amazon to Officially Enter Israeli Market, Tofi Stoler, Calcalistech, April 30th 2019