A senior Palestinian official has ridiculed reports that Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu greenlighted the release of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah out of "humanitarian considerations".
Nabil Shaath, Fatah Central Committee member and former foreign minister of the PA in the West Bank, exclusively told IBTimes UK that the "ridiculous" freezing of tax receipts was tantamount to "highway robbery".
"This is our money, not credit money from the Israelis. These are taxes collected for us," he said. "It makes me happy that they're going to pay our money back again after three months of borrowing from the commercial banks, paying 60% salary to our employees, starving our people in Gaza. This is utterly ridiculous."
The Israeli government stopped transferring the tax it collects on the PA's behalf in December 2014 in response to President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could lead to war crimes prosecutions against Israel for the occupation of the West Bank and the 2014 Gaza war.
The tax money, which amounts to 500m shekels ($125m; £83m), is used to pay public sector salaries and amounts to two-thirds of the Ramallah government's revenues, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The Israeli PM's office said the decision to transfer to the PA the tax revenues was made "based on humanitarian concerns and in overall consideration of Israel's interests at this time".
Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Given the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, one must act responsibly and with due consideration alongside a determined struggle against extremist elements."
But Shaath said the measure "adds insult to injury" and makes it "very difficult for Netanyahu to have any credibility in the ongoing peace process".
The Palestinian official laughed when asked about Israel's humanitarian concerns. "Did they have any humanitarian concerns for the 3,300 people they killed in Gaza?" he said.
"Netanyahu went too far in angering [US President Barack] Obama and the EU and maybe by taking that 'humanitarian action', he thought they would release pressure on him," Shaath said.
Netanyahu's decisive victory at the Israeli elections raised fears that his emerging Likud-led government will implement discriminatory policies against Arab citizens of Israel and put the final nail in the coffin on the peace process with the Palestinians.
The conservative leader's campaign was distinguished by a marked shift to the right - with inflammatory statements about Israel's Arab population - and outright claims he would never support a Palestinian state.
Shaath urged the PA government to seek international support to bring Israel before the ICC.
"This final act [tax revenues freezing] has pushed us further and made us realise that negotiating with the Israelis in the last 20 years have led to nothing but deepening their occupation, quadrupling their settlers, separating Gaza from West Bank and almost taking over Jerusalem," he said.
"It just increased our total disbelief in any statement that the Israelis will ever get back to the peace process."