|Israel halts financing of illegal West Bank settlements||
The Zionist entity’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid has decided to suspend the transfer of public funds to West Bank settlements pending a probe into their alleged misuse, his office said, according to AFP.
The move announced late Saturday was not expected to affect plans for illegal settlement expansion, which the Palestinians view as a major obstacle to U.S.-backed peace talks relaunched last year.
The decision came as Israeli politicians lashed out after comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned "talk of boycotts" if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not end.
Lapid's move came after he was informed that "funds were allegedly transferred from settlements to the Yesha Council," which represents Zionists living in the West Bank, a statement late Saturday read.
West Bank settlements receive compensation following the 10-month construction freeze of 2009-2010, which came as part of U.S.-led peace efforts.
After it emerged the funds were "allegedly being illegally channeled to the Yesha Council, which was using the money for political activities - including against the government - the minister ordered to immediately cut the future funding under this clause," the statement read.
According to the Israeli anti-settlement think-tank Molad, the Zionist entity has already transferred $42 million to West Bank settlements as compensation to make up for property taxes not collected on structures not built.
Lapid's decision comes amid an upsurge in the international campaign to boycott settlements, which are illegal under international law.
Kerry, in a discussion at a Munich security forum on Saturday, touched a nerve in Israel by pointing to "an increasing de-legitimization" campaign building up against it internationally and "talk of boycotts."
"Are we all going to be better with all of that?" asked Kerry, who is seeking to seal a framework agreement soon that will set a path toward a final accord on peace and Palestinian statehood.
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