As long as the Palestinian Authority supports terror there is no point in its existence, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said as he signed an order to transfer NIS 139 million of Palestinian tax fees to Israeli terror victims on Sunday.
“The PA must decide if it wants to continue to exist and if so, it will deal with the needs of its Arab citizens in Judea and Samaria and will stop engaging with terror or it does not want to exist and it prefers to return to the situation where it is Israel’s enemy,” said Smotrich.
"The PA has to decide if it wants to continue to exist and then if so, it will deal with the needs of its Arab citizens in Judea and Samaria and will stop engaging with terror or it does not want to exist and it prefers to return to the situation where it is Israel's enemy."Bezalel Smotrich
An enemy is an entity that one does battle with it,” he said.
“There is no situation in the world where on one hand the PA is a partner that receives funds from us and on the other hand it is an enemy that is leading [terror activities] and supporting the murder of Israelis,” Smotrich said.
Israel has long opposed the PA policy of paying monthly stipends to terrorists who have killed Israelis and their families.
The Security Cabinet on Thursday decided to resume the policy of withholding the sum given to terrorists from the tax fees it transfers to the PA. It also decided to divert an additional sum of NIS 139 million to Israeli terror victims.
The move creates a financial crisis for the PA, which Is already in dire economic straits.
Smotrich told reporters that the PA’s financial collapse is a crisis of its own making and not his concern.
“As long as the PA supports terror and is an enemy, why am I interested in helping it exist? My only interest in its existence is if it operates within existing agreements… and takes care of its citizens and thwarts and acts against terror and works in conjunction with the Israeli security forces, then the PA is an authority with which one can have a in-depth relationship,” Smotrich said.
The withholding of tax fees was part of a series of sanctions Israel imposed on the PA to protest its successful initiative through the International Court of Justice, which will now issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s “occupation.”
Israel suspends Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki's travel pass
Israel suspended on Sunday a pass easing Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s travel in the West Bank as part of the sanctions it leveled against the PA late last week to protest its push for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion against the Jewish state.
Maliki’s “VIP” travel card was confiscated by border staff as he crossed from Jordan into the West Bank via the Allenby Crossing, his office said. The Defense Ministry confirmed the suspension of Maliki’s VIP pass.
Retaliatory measures taken by Israel against Palestinians
In an interview with Voice of Palestine Radio, Maliki said his office had written to governments around the world asking that to condemn the Israeli sanctions.
Israel confiscated Maliki’s VIP card in 2021 after he returned from a meeting of the ICC. It was not immediately clear why the card had been confiscated and when it will be restored.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the sanctions at the start of his weekly government meeting, explaining that they were in response to “a radical anti-Israel decision at the UN.”
He said that “these steps include sanctions against senior Palestinian officials, the offsetting of terrorist funds and the freezing of Palestinian construction projects in Area C, which contravene the explicit commitments that the PA has taken upon itself.
“We have established a different government with a different policy, and everyone will see this,” Netanyahu said.
On Sunday, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich ordered Tax Authority Director Eran Ya’akov to transfer NIS 138.8 million from tax fees it had collected on behalf of the PA to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror.
“Today we are correcting an injustice,” Smotrich said. “This is an important day for morality, justice and the war on terror,” particularly given the PA’s policy of paying monthly stipends to terrorists and their families, he said.
“There is no greater justice than offsetting the authority’s funds that support terrorism and transferring them to the families of the victims of terrorism,” Smotrich said.
“There is no comfort here for the families of the murdered, but there is justice here. I am happy that I had the privilege of leading this amendment process as one of my first actions as Finance Minister,” he said.
The parents of Lt. Shir Hajaj, 22, one of four soldiers killed in a Jerusalem terror attack in 2017, were present in the ministry when Smotrich signed the order and they thanked the government for its decision.
"We made it our goal to prevent the next attack and the taking of these funds will create deterrence. This is how we spare another family from bereavement."Herzl Hajaj
“We made it our goal to prevent the next attack and the taking of these funds will create deterrence. This is how we spare another family from bereavement,” Herzl Hajaj said.
Separately, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the police to remove all Palestinian flags from the public domain and to halt any events of incitement against Israel.
Ben-Gvir said that “it is inconceivable that law breakers should fly flags of terror, incite and abet terror.”
Reuters contributed to this report.