When Defense Minister Benny Gantz sat down for coffee in his home a few weeks ago with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, it was not just political theater. Gantz gave substantive concessions to Abbas – and in so doing defied Israeli law and single-handedly undermined one of Israel’s greatest political wins in the United States (US) Congress.
In connection with the meeting, Gantz promised to transfer NIS 100 m. to the PA. He did this despite an Israeli law that passed 87-15 in 2018 restricting any transfers to the PA while they maintain their pay-for-slay policy of giving financial rewards to terrorists and their families.
Israel’s law is itself modeled on the US Taylor Force Act, passed months earlier by the US Congress. The law prohibits America from giving any money to the PA while it continues to champion and finance the murder-for-hire of Jews. It was named for Taylor Force, a former US soldier murdered by a Palestinian in Tel Aviv. The killer’s family now receives generous compensation from the Palestinian Authority, under a policy maintained by Abbas that pays out $350 m. a year. The Taylor Force Act is not only important in denying funding to Jew-killing, but also in making it official that the PA is a criminal, terrorist body and not a partner for peace.
US and Israeli laws are designed to prevent taxpayers from indirectly subsidizing terror against their own citizens. However in recent months, Gantz has repeatedly sought to circumvent these prohibitions by giving the PA money. He claims these are not gifts, but loans. Yet without any apparent interest rates or repayment terms, it is quite clear that they are gifts. By attempting to circumvent Israel’s funding restrictions, Gantz’s simultaneously strengthens the PA’s pay-for-slay system while weakening Israel’s rule of law.
Israelis must understand the cost of Gantz’s actions. The Taylor Force Act makes it clear that the PA is sponsoring terror and adjures the US State Department to call upon countries to curtail their support for PA terror. It was one of the most important recent accomplishments of pro-Israel advocacy in the US, an accomplishment I am proud to be part of. However, it becomes impossible to insist that countries like the US hold the PA accountable for pay-for-slay and enforce US law when Israel’s own defense minister does not do the same.
Indeed, the litigation department of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a major Israeli think tank, sent a legal memo to both the defense and finance ministries pointing out the lack of any statutory authority for the payments. Not surprisingly, Gantz & Co. have not replied.
US supporters of Israel can only become demoralized when years of hard work – resulting in binding federal legislation – are contradicted by Israeli’s own leaders.
Ironically, even as his coalition partner, Yair Lapid said Israel was facing a massive wave of delegitimization of its existence, Gantz’s loans reward Abbas with a legitimacy that US and Israeli law had taken away. The legitimacy of the PA enables Abbas & Co. to continue to convince the world that Israel is a racist oppressor.
Gantz describes these one-sided concessions as confidence-building measures. It is perversely accurate: In the days after his payment, PA officials expressed complete confidence that they can continue financing Jew-killing despite US and Israeli law.
Just days after the meeting, Abbas gave a speech reaffirming his commitment to “prisoners… and the families of martyrs,” highlighting Israel’s ”worst acts of racial discrimination and organized terror.” Additionally, last Sunday, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told his cabinet they would never stop pay-for-slay.
The next time a terrorist attacks a Jew, knowing the PA will reward him, please know that US Jews tried to stop the flow of money and Gantz turned it back on.
The writer is the CEO of Hudson Bay Capital Management, a distinguished fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was recently appointed to the advisory board of MEPPA by Senator Jim Risch.