A bill that would slash funding to the Palestinian Authority corresponding to the amount that the P.A. pays out to convicted terrorists and their families was approved by the Knesset in its first reading on Monday.
The so-called “terrorist wages bill” passed its first reading by a vote of 52-14, and was backed by all coalition and opposition parties, with the exception of Meretz and the Joint Arab List.
The bill outlines a mechanism under which Israel would deduct the sum the P.A. pays out to terrorists from the tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian government. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel collects taxes—value-added tax and customs fees—on behalf of the P.A. and transfers them to Ramallah. The taxes collected amount to about $100 million per month.
The P.A. uses a considerable portion of these funds to finance stipends it pays to terrorists and their families. In 2017, this amounted to NIS 1.23 billion ($358 million), while in 2016 it came to NIS 1.15 billion ($334 million), some 7 percent of the P.A.’s total budget each year.
The bill, sponsored by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, calls for the seized funds to be diverted instead into efforts to support victims of terrorism, as well as for the funding of counterterrorism projects.
“We shutting off the tap for [P.A. leader] Mahmoud Abbas,” Lieberman said Monday. “This madness, where we give the Palestinian Authority money we know it is using to fund acts of terror against us, will stop.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said: “We will fight terrorists not only by apprehending them and bringing them to justice but also after they have been imprisoned. We will continue fighting them, their families and anyone who finances them, and we will show zero tolerance for terrorism.
“According to the Defense Ministry’s data, the Palestinian Authority pays over 1 billion shekels a year to terrorists and their families,” he continued. “Just imagine how many kindergartens and schools could have been built with this money. Instead of ensuring the welfare of the Palestinians in Gaza, the P.A. encourages terrorism.”
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli said “this bill is just, fair and moral. We fully support a diplomatic solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], but the issue here is that over 7 percent of the P.A.’s budget is earmarked for supporting terrorists. You can’t have it both ways.”
Joint Arab List MK Ahmad Tibi slammed the bill, saying, “This method of usurping the Palestinian people’s money … is nothing short of extortion by the occupation [Israel].”