Israel to withhold NIS 600 million from PA for payments to families of terrorists

The security cabinet voted on Sunday to withhold more than half a billion shekels from the Palestinian Authority to compensate for funds the Palestinian Authority has paid to terrorists and their families over the past year.

The 600 million shekels ($176 million) the government has voted for the freeze will come from tax funds that Israel collects on behalf of the PA.

According to Kan’s news, the 600 million shekels would be deducted in monthly installments over the next year.

In 2018, Israel passed a law requiring the government to withhold the amount equivalent to what the Palestinian Authority is supposed to pay to Palestinian terrorists and their families. Although required by law, the security cabinet must still vote periodically to approve the move.

Although popular with Israelis, who oppose the PA’s so-called “pay-to-kill” system, which encourages terrorism, the law is seen as potentially destabilizing for the Palestinian Authority, which is still short of resources. ‘silver. In the past, Israel has offered loans to the Palestinians in order to keep the PA afloat and prevent its total collapse.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of the dovish Meretz party abstained in Sunday’s vote, according to Kan, who cited sources saying he opposed the measure.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (R) and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2022. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Israel has long accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging terrorism and militant activity by publicly honoring attackers and paying stipends to their families if they are killed or imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli reportedly told the cabinet that the Palestinian Authority was ready to end the payments, which are not only deeply unpopular in Israel but also in the United States and Europe, which see them as incitement to terrorism.

“I know the PA is ready to stop payments to terrorists and their families, so we can stop these compensation measures,” Michaeli said, according to an unsourced Channel 13 report.

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hit back: “If they want to stop the payments, they have to stop. There is nothing to say.

Michaeli insisted they were ready but that such a move by the PA was conditional on peace talks.

“I know they are ready. We need to have diplomatic talks with them, and that would be part of that,” she reportedly said.

The cabinet’s decision immediately drew criticism from Palestinian officials, calling it a “financial blockade” on the Palestinian economy. PA officials have also denounced this Israeli policy in the past.

“The occupation government continues its piracy of money from Palestinian funds and decides to deduct hundreds of millions of shekels to further entrench the policy of financial blockade and steal our money in a step that adds to the escalation daily life in our towns, villages and camps and the legalization of our bloodshed,” said Hussein al-Sheikh, Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Ramallah. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the fathers of two Palestinian gunmen who were killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops in the West Bank, and expressed his condolences.

Israel’s Channel 12 said the phone call was seen by the widely unpopular Abbas as an opportunity for internal political gains – hence its filming and broadcast on Palestinian social media.

Nevertheless, the current Israeli government has taken steps to ensure close coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

At a meeting held in Ramallah earlier this month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Abbas discussed issues surrounding security coordination.

A day later, President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid held phone calls with Abbas, in what was believed to be the first direct call between an Israeli prime minister and the PA leader in five years.

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