RAMALLAH/Jerusalem - A top Palestinian official on Sunday accused Israel of trying to topple the Palestinian Authority by continuing its freeze on millions of dollars in crucial tax monies.

Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat demanded world action to pressure Israel into releasing monies owed to the Palestinian Authority which were frozen as a punitive measure nearly two months ago.  ‘Israel is aiming to collapse the Palestinian Authority with all its institutions, so the international community should do much more than stating what the results of such move might be,’ Erakat said.

‘This money is not Israeli money nor donors’ money, this is an unprecedented act of piracy,’ he railed. Every month, Israel transfers to the PA around $127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports - revenues which collectively make up around two-thirds of the Authority’s annual budget, excluding foreign aid. But on January 2, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the December funds as a punitive measure after the Palestinians moved to join the International Criminal Court, where they could potentially sue Israel for alleged war crimes.

The move has put huge financial pressure on the already-struggling Palestinian Authority, prompting concern within the international community. ‘Israel has been doing its best to lead to the PA collapse for years, Netanyahu wants a PA without any authority and now he withholds the funds in order to make it collapse,’ Erakat said, demanding the international community do ‘much more’ than merely issuing statements of condemnation.

Speaking in London on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Washington’s concerns over the ‘continued viability’ of the Palestinian Authority if it did not receive the funds ‘soon.’ ‘If the Palestinian Authority ceases... security cooperation (with Israel) or even decides to disband as a result of their economic predicament, and that could happen in the near future if they don’t receive additional revenues, then we would be faced with yet another crisis that could also greatly impact the security of both Palestinians and Israelis,’ he said.

‘That would have the potential of serious ripple effects elsewhere in the region.’ Under an 1994 economic agreement between the sides, Israel transfers to the PA tens of millions of dollars each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports. Although the sanction has been imposed many times, it has rarely lasted more than one or two months, except in 2006 when Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections. Moreover, Israel has signed a contract to buy 14 additional F-35 fighter jets from the United States for about $3 billion, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The deal, approved by an Israeli cabinet committee in November, follows Israel’s purchase in 2010 of 19 F-35s, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N). In a statement, the ministry said an agreement to buy the 14 additional aircraft was signed over the weekend and included an option for another 17 of the planes. Israel’s first two F-35s will arrive by the end of 2016, with deliveries scheduled to be completed by 2021, the ministry said. The Pentagon plans to spend nearly $400 billion to develop and build 2,457 of the radar-evading aircraft over the next two decades for the US military and its allies. Moreover, Lawyers for the Palestinian Authority said Thursday it should not be held responsible for ‘crazy and terrible’ attacks committed in Israel, as it fights a lawsuit seeking billions of dollars for victims.

US victims and their relatives have filed suit in federal court in New York against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The six attacks took place between 2001 and 2004, killing 33 people and injuring more than 390 others, including members of the 11 plaintiff families. ‘It is not the right thing to hold the government liable for some people doing crazy and terrible things,’ defense attorney Mark Rochon said in his closing argument.

‘There is no conclusive evidence that the senior leadership of the PA or PLO were involved in planning or approving specific acts of violence.’ The attackers killed the victims ‘for their own reasons,’ he added, complaining about the plaintiffs’ ‘exaggerated testimonies to make the Palestinian Authority look bad,’ based in part on Israeli intelligence.

The plaintiffs are pressing for the PA and the PLO to be held accountable for supporting the attacks carried out by members of the Islamist movement Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, some of whom were also on the entities’ payroll. But the Palestinians already face serious financial difficulties because some of its revenues are frozen by Israel. The trial in lower Manhattan presided by US District Judge George Daniels takes place in the context of the PA’s accession to the International Criminal Court, from where it could file