(photo credit: ITZIK EDRI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The government says it has been quietly docking tax funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount it gives terrorists and their families, but the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had no knowledge of it, the committee said on Monday.
Senior government sources have confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that tax payments to the Palestinian Authority are already cut in proportion to the terrorist salaries, following a cabinet decision to that effect last summer.
However, the cuts were not reported to the committee, which would be responsible for parliamentary oversight on the matter.
Meanwhile, on Monday, several MKs who were left in the dark called on the government to do exactly what it told The Jerusalem Post it is doing.
In a meeting discussing Palestinian incitement, including the policy of paying terrorists, committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud) said he plans to call a confidential committee meeting with government officials to ask them what they plan to do to fight Palestinian incitement to terrorism.
“It cannot be that Israel is making diplomatic moves to bring peace while those who are supposed to be our partners are inciting, and it is not fading, but rising,” Dichter said. “If we need to pass a law, this committee can do it. We plan to put all of our efforts into this topic.”
In this confused situation, a bill by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) seeking to anchor in law what government sources say is already happening, cutting tax funds as long as terrorist payments continue, will go to a Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote a week from Sunday. Dichter, MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) – both former heads of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – and other top security officials-turned-MKs cosponsored the bill. Stern said Monday that he’s confident it will be approved, because ministers cannot publicly oppose stemming support for terrorists.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in the government have led a public outcry against Palestinian terrorist salaries, former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and later the Post that there is lack of clarity on the issue internationally as well.
Gold, who is still close with Netanyahu, referred to the Taylor Force Act, proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), that would stop all US funding to the PA as long as it pays terrorists and their families.
“It’s important that Israel be very clear on its position on the Taylor Force Act,” he said. “Sometimes there is a debate about whether to support specific legislation, but the idea behind it is something the prime minister fully backs.”
In what was apparently a reference to AIPAC, which has not lobbied for the Taylor Force Act, Gold said: “Sometimes you hear from political groups in the US that Israel doesn’t support [the bill], which creates conflicting messages.”
Gold recounted that, under his stewardship, the Foreign Ministry prepared two documents, in December 2015 and April 2016, stating that effective steps should be taken to stop the payments.
Earlier this month, a cabinet source seemingly contradicted the government sources saying funds to the PA have been docked, stating security branches oppose the idea and argue they bring about more terrorism. Gold, however, dismissed that concern, saying he does not think it will bring about the PA’s “dismemberment.”
“This is Israel’s clear position... Anyone who is contradicting the prime minister is doing it on his own,” Gold stated. “It’s outrageous that [the Palestinian] policy continues, and it raises doubts about [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’s intentions to resume the peace process.”
Channel 2 reported Sunday that US President Donald Trump yelled at Abbas for supporting terrorism, and Norway and the UN pulled funding from a women’s center in Ramallah because it was named after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi.
Netanyahu took credit for the defunding, saying he asked Norway and the UN to take action.
“You are witnesses to our aggressive foreign policy,” he said at a Likud faction meeting.
“There are things that we once took for granted, but not anymore... These are the early results of things we are doing across the board.”