Israel returning money deducted to stop Palestinian terrorists’ salaries

PA paid NIS 517.4m. on these salaries in 2019, some NIS 15m. more than previous year

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel plans to effectively return the tax and tariff funds deducted due to the Palestinian Authority’s continued monthly payments to terrorists and their salaries, in the form of a NIS 800 million loan on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon confirmed on Friday that he will sign an agreement with his Palestinian counterpart on Sunday.
A report in Israel Hayom cited court documents in which Kahlon stated that, with approval from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in coordination with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel will grant the loan over the coming months. The loan is essentially an advance on tax funds Israel collects and transfers to the PA under the terms of the Oslo Accords.
The loan is meant to help the PA overcome its current economic crisis, which was deepened due to what has been nicknamed the “Pay for Slay Law” that went into effect at the start of 2019, by which Israel deducts the funds the Palestinian Authority pays terrorists and their families each month from their taxes and tariffs.
Since the law went into effect, Israel has deducted over NIS 700m., all of which and more will be returned in the form of the loan.
The PA paid NIS 517.4m. on these salaries in 2019, an increase of more than NIS 15m. from the previous year.
A February poll of Palestinians in the West Bank, conducted by the Washington Institute, found that 68% of them agree with the following statement: “The PA should stop special payments to prisoners and give prisoners’ families normal social benefits like everybody else, not extra payments based on their sentences or armed operations.” Last year, only 43% agreed; the shift could be due to the PA slashing its workers’ salaries while keeping the full terrorist payments intact.
In Gaza, where Hamas, not the PA, has control, only 37% agree with the statement; 50% agreed last year.
Head of legal strategies at Palestinian Media Watch Maurice Hirsch, who has long tracked the PA’s payments to terrorists, said “the ‘loan’ is shameful on multiple levels.”
First, he said, it undermines the law deducting funds paid to terrorists, because Israel is giving the PA more funds than it deducted and never officially decided to implement the law in 2019.
“The ‘loan’ appears to have been given [with] no strings attached,” Hirsch explained. “In other words, the PA can now use Israeli taxpayer money, the money of victims of Palestinian terror, to reward the very same terrorists who murdered Israelis.”
Hirsch speculated that “the PA will undoubtedly also use the money to continue funding and promoting the investigation of Israel in the International Criminal Court. Israel is now funding the campaign against itself!”
In addition, Hirsch said the loan “completely ignores the virulent PA incitement against Israel and Jews, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The court documents in which the Finance Ministry revealed the details of the loan were the state’s response to a petition to the High Court, an organization of bereaved families and victims of terror, demanding the government stop aiding the PA.
“We are funding the murderers of our children,” Herzl and Merav Hajaj of Choosing Life, whose daughter, Shir, was murdered in a terrorist attack, said when they submitted the petition. “We invite the government to directly pay the money to the family of the murderer of our daughter and three other IDF officers.”
Last month, Kahlon first agreed to loan the PA money and transferred NIS 120m. of tax funds as emergency aid to the PA, on the advice of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi who expressed concerns about Israel’s security if the PA collapses.
Kahlon also agreed at the time to ensure that tax and tariff revenue transferred to the Palestinian Authority will not fall under $137m. per month, which is “the minimum amount necessary to ensure the PA’s fiscal viability and critical service delivery to the Palestinians,” according to UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.
In addition, Israel has aided the Palestinians in fighting the spread of coronavirus, by training professionals from the West Bank and Gaza, and providing medical equipment.