Nadav Argaman, director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Nadav Argaman met recently with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to try to convince him to accept partial customs payments to end an economic crisis, Channel 12 reported Saturday night.
Israel and the PA have been in a standoff over the approximate NIS 600 million in customs payments per month which the Jewish state generally collects on the PA’s behalf and then transfers to it.
In April, the PA refused to accept further transfers from Israel unless the government renewed transferring 100% of the payments which it is supposed to collect on the PA’s behalf.
The government had started to deduct tens of millions of shekels from the customs taxes as an offset penalty on the PA for its monthly transfers of tens of millions of shekels to Palestinian prisoners accused of terror or families of dead terrorists.
The issue raises strong emotions on both sides, with Israel wanting the PA to end its financial support for terror and the PA viewing the payments as part of financing the struggle against the “occupation” as well as necessary to maintain loyalty in the West Bank and avoid Hamas taking over.
Some top Israeli defense officials had opposed the idea in the first place and are now warning that the PA could go bankrupt within weeks, leading to chaos and potential uprisings just as Israeli re-run elections kick into high gear.
The idea was for Argaman, who has been a go-to man in dealing with the PA – even as Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relations have been at a low – to try to sweet-talk the PA president into taking what still represents the vast majority of the money to avoid the PA’s collapse.
Most Israeli defense officials regard the collapse of the PA as a worst-case scenario which could lead to a Hamas takeover in the West Bank, which in turn would endanger Israeli security far more than Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007.
At the same time, Netanyahu may find it hard to back down in the standoff both because of a law passed by the Knesset which now requires the set-off and to avoid looking weak in re-run election season.
The Shin Bet declined to comment and the Prime Minister’s Office had not responded at press time.
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