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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

Updated 36 mins ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits greet Pope Francis upon his arrival at Erbil airport, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 7. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting northern areas of Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.