DURA, West Bank — Hatem Amro’s donkey is as scrawny as his salary.
In January, Amro, who teaches Islamic studies in the southern West Bank as one of 180,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority, coped with a 40 percent pay cut by buying a short, spindly donkey for his nine-mile commute to school. It’s just one of the many ways workers whose salaries depend on the Authority are dealing with a cash crisis that the Palestinian government is suffering because Israel has cut off tax payments. The Palestinian Authority employs a quarter of the Palestinian workforce.
“My salary was never enough. Imagine now, with only 60 percent of my paycheck,” Amro said. “How does the Palestinian Authority expect us to survive on that amount?”
Over the last two months, Israel withheld $254 million in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The move came in response to the Palestinian step of joining the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians hope to pursue what they say are Israeli war crimes at the court, based at The Hague. An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the Palestinian application to the ICC was “a violation of their commitments in the framework of the peace process.” The official requested anonymity because Netanyahu has not commented on the move.