Barak okays transfer of pensions to Gaza

NIS 2m to be distributed monthly to 900 Gazans who worked for Israel before Hamas took over in 2007.

In a humanitarian gesture to the Palestinian people and as part of an effort to bolster the PA's standing in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday approved the establishment of a financial mechanism that will facilitate the transfer of pension stipends to the Strip while bypassing Hamas.
NIS 2 million will be transferred monthly to the PA in Ramallah, from where it will be distributed to around 900 Gazans who are eligible to receive Israeli pensions and National Insurance payments for work they did in Israel before Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.
The establishment of the mechanism was approved by Barak on the recommendation of Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), whose office worked together with the PA to formulate the system that would be used to transfer the money.
Israel stopped working with Gaza-based banks after Hamas took over the Strip and as a result suspended money transfers to Palestinians living there who had worked in Israel. The concern at the time was that the money would be used by Hamas to fund its terrorism.
Under the new procedures - put together by COGAT, the Justice Ministry, the Treasury, the Bank of Israel and the IDF - the head of the PA banking authority will be responsible for ensuring that the monthly stipends go directly to the recipients and are not intercepted by terrorists.
"The new mechanism is meant to overcome the difficulty in transferring the money to the Palestinians after Israeli and Gaza banks stopped working together following Hamas's takeover of Gaza," explained a COGAT official.
On Thursday, COGAT forwarded the Israeli proposal to the relevant PA authorities in Ramallah for their final approval. The Defense Ministry and COGAT are still considering what to do with past payments and if the mechanism will also work retroactively.
A defense official explained that COGAT's new mechanism was a humanitarian gesture to the people of Gaza but was also aimed at bolstering the PA.
"This way the PA shows that it is the one that is caring for the people of Gaza and not Hamas," the official said.