JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel transferred $100 million in withheld Palestinian tax revenue to President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, part of a U.S.-led push to bolster the moderate leader in his power struggle with Hamas, Israeli officials said.
The transfer was the first by Israel since Hamas, whose charter calls for the Jewish state’s destruction, came to power last year.
“The money has been transferred,” a senior official in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said.
The United States has been pressing Israel to strengthen Abbas in his rivalry with the Islamist Hamas movement which took control of the
Palestinian Authority in March and has been building up its own “Executive Force.”
Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said the money would be earmarked for humanitarian needs and a U.S.-backed program to strengthen Abbas’s presidential guard.
It will not be used to make long-overdue salary payments to Palestinian public sector workers, hard hit by a Western and Israeli embargo of the Hamas-led government, they said.