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Greenblatt (seated) with Jared Kushner at a Middle East summit in Warsaw. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Today at a closed door meeting of the UN Security Council, President Trump's Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, defended Israel's decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues over the Palestinian Authority's payments to families of terrorists, U.S. officials told me.

"The time has come to make it clear that the Palestinian Authority, if it aspires to the status of a government, it must behave like one. It is unacceptable for the Palestinian Authority to pay these terrorists and their families a reward for criminal acts."
— Greenblatt at the meeting

Why it matters: The U.S. was the only member of the Security Council to defend the Israeli measure, which is a violation of the Oslo Accords. Other member states called on Israel to resume the transfer of the tax revenues according to its agreements with the Palestinians. 

The backdrop: The Israeli cabinet decided two weeks ago to freeze more than $150 million in Palestinian tax revenues over the course of a year.

  • The Palestinian Authority rejected the move, saying it would not accept any tax revenues from Israel if they were not in the full amount.
  • The tax revenues are a huge part of the Palestinian Authority's budget and without them the economic crisis in the West Bank and Gaza will further deteriorate.  
  • This decision was partially influenced by the current election campaign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at risk of being forced out of power.

U.S. officials said Greenblatt told the members of the Security Council that any other country would act as Israel did toward a country that was paying terrorists who attacked its citizens.

"It is entirely inappropriate to focus on Israel as the source of this crisis. It is the Palestinian Authority that has chosen to manufacture the current crisis.  ... "The Palestinian Authority is refusing to accept over $150 million in revenue to protest the fact that $11 million is being withheld, only to make a political point.  Does that sound like a governing authority that is concerned with the welfare of its people?".
— Greenblatt

Go deeper

California father and son accused of "reckless arson" in Calder Fire

Firefighters at the Caldor Fire along Highway 89 west of Lake Tahoe, California, in September. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California officials said they arrested a father and son Wednesday on suspicion of starting the Caldor Fire, which threatened the Lake Tahoe area as it burned for over two months earlier this year. They deny any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: The wildfire was the 15th-biggest ever recorded in California, razing more than 1,000 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and injuring five people as it burned across nearly 222,000 acres of land in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties.

New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation with tobacco ban

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a December news conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand officials announced Thursday legislative plans to outlaw smoking by making it illegal to sell or supply tobacco products to the next generation as part of a lifetime ban.

Why it matters: "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement announcing the proposed law, part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

FDA approves AstraZeneca COVID drug for people with immune problems

Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for an AstraZeneca COVID-19 antibody drug for people with compromised immune systems.

Why it matters: The drug, Evusheld, is the first antibody therapy authorized in the U.S. to prevent coronavirus symptoms before virus exposure.