Israel's gift to Palestinians violates law
February 18, 2022
(JNS) — The Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum sent a request on Jan. 16 under Israel’s Freedom of Information Act to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, asking for information and details on his agreement to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority. The problem, according to Kohelet, is that such a move violates Israeli law, which directly prohibits money transfers to the P.A. as a consequence of its pay-for-slay policy that awards Palestinian terrorists with money if they kill Israelis.
In his meeting last month with P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, Gantz promised NIS 100 million ($31.5 million) as an advance against future tax money Israel would transfer to the P.A.
“While Gantz calls the payments loans, they do not appear to have interest or repayment terms, making them gifts that Israeli law prohibits,” said Ariel Erlich, head of the litigation department at Kohelet.
According to Kohelet, “Transferring funds as an ‘advance’ or as a ‘loan’ or labeling them with any other name cannot permit what the law prohibits, and does not confer authority on anyone, including a minister in Israel, to transfer funds.”
“We would therefore ask you to inform us where these agreements are available (if any) for public inspection,” the letter stated.
Kohelet called on Gantz to cease transferring money to the P.A. and to provide a legal source for the transfers it made until now.
In what appears to have been a deal made between Gantz and Abbas during their December discussion, according to Israel’s Channel 12 TV, the P.A.—on direct instruction from Abbas—has frozen the work of the committee collecting evidence against Israel in preparation for submission to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The report added that Gantz had asked Abbas to stop paying stipends to the families of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs, along with a request not to go to the ICC. Abbas apparently replied by saying that he is ready to respond to Gantz’s requests if the political process between the P.A. and Israel is resumed.
This is not the first time Israel has bypassed its own laws in order to prop up the P.A.
In 2020, Israel transferred NIS 800 million (more than $225 million) as a loan to the P.A. to assist it in dealing with the financial effects of COVID-19, in the form of an advance payment on these tax revenues.
And in September 2021, Gantz held a meeting in Ramallah with Abbas to discuss a loan of 500 million shekels ($160 million) to the P.A., even while it continues to pay salaries to terrorists and their families.
‘Supporting acts of terror’
Simcha Rothman, an Israeli lawyer and a Knesset member of the Religious Zionist Party, told JNS “a government that is based on a terror-supporting party like Ra’am moved very quickly to support terror by itself. Transferring money to the P.A. against Israeli law supports and allows it to pay salaries to terrorists and encourage the next terror act against Israeli citizens. The fact that this happened in a government when there are people there who call themselves right-wing is a shame.”
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has taken the initiative, pushing for a law that would see Israeli terrorists who receive terror rewards from the P.A. stripped of their Israeli residency and/or citizenship.
The legislation was originally signed by 41 Knesset members from 10 parties, including eight signatories who are today ministers in the government. Alongside presenting and explaining the law, MK Avi Dichter of the Likud Party also raised the issue of the government breaching the “Freeze Law,” which is supposed to freeze tax transfers to the Palestinians.
According to PMW, while Israeli Minister of the Interior Ayelet Shaked is on record saying that PMW’s law is a “good bill that should become law” and had promised to adopt the law as government legislation, the coalition again voted the law down. Shaked is yet to suggest any government legislation on the subject.
Adding to the confusion as to why the Palestinians are being given a free pass on incitement and terrorism, U.S. and Palestinian officials gathered virtually on Dec. 14 to renew the U.S.-Palestinian Economic Dialogue (USPED)—the first such meeting in five years—to discuss current and future areas of economic cooperation.
According to the U.S. State Department, “the two sides concluded the dialogue agreeing to work on several crucial issues to advance the economic prosperity of the Palestinian people.”
In her opening remarks, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert underscored the administration’s belief that the Palestinian people deserve to live in freedom, security and prosperity. She noted, “Growing the Palestinian economy will also play a critical role in advancing our overarching political goal: a negotiated two-state solution, with a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”
Experts familiar with the issue believe that the U.S. obsession with the Palestinian issue and its willful ignorance of the underlying issues, such as incitement and terrorism, defies logic and prevents any real peaceful solution in the region. And Israel’s apparent readiness to ignore its own laws and pay huge sums to the Palestinians—some or most of which will end up going towards funding terrorism—appears equally illogical.
According to Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “the real problem here is that extending this loan stands in sharp contrast with the spirit and the logic of the law, and is going to make it easier for the P.A. to keep paying hefty salaries to the terrorists that try or succeed to kill Israelis, in clear violation of its commitment to fight against terror.”
He added that the claim that this is going to help Abbas and will convince the P.A. to adopt a more manageable policy “is clearly wrong.”
“The P.A. remains committed to fighting Israel in the international, political and legal arenas,” he said, “and keeps supporting the acts of terror and the terrorists that perpetuate them.”