(May 10, 2020 / Israel Hayom) Israel was expected to begin transferring NIS 800 million in loans ($228.1 million) to the Palestinian Authority on Sunday, to bolster it against the financial losses incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The loan, which according to Israel Hayom was made at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and coordinated with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, will be transferred as an advance on taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the P.A. under the 1993 Oslo Accords. These taxes average $100 million per month on average.
In 2018, the Israeli Knesset passed legislation seeking to counter the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-for-slay” policy of paying salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and the families of dead terrorists, stipulating that Israel must deduct these payments from the taxes it collects on Ramallah’s behalf. The P.A.’s payments to terrorists amount to hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to maintain payments even if it means bankrupting the P.A.
The state informed the High Court of Justice of its plan in response to a petition filed by a group of bereaved parents seeking to prevent the funds’ transfer. In the state’s response, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon explained that Netanyahu had instructed him to make a loan available to the P.A., allocated in several phases.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov announced the loan to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, saying that failing to transfer enough to allow the P.A. to provide critical services and remain financially solvent would “risk the very existence of the P.A.,” as the P.A.’s trade, tourism and transfer revenues have dropped to the lowest levels in 20 years.
At the UNSC meeting, Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour accused Israel of endangering Gazans by maintaining strict security measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Mansour had previously caused an uproar in Israel when he claimed Israelis were spitting on Palestinians in an effort to infect them with COVID-19.
The loan announcement was made just hours after bereaved families of terror victims petitioned Israel’s High Court to stop the transfer. The families argued that the money would go to terrorists and their families, and was a source of shame and pain for those who had lost loved ones in P.A.-supported terrorist attacks.
The Lavi organization, which assisted the families in filing the High Court petition, denounced the plan.
“Transferring close to NIS 1 billion to the Palestinian Authority for it to pay terrorists’ salaries is unacceptable. The Palestinian Authority pays terrorists huge salaries while whining about its financial difficulties. Transferring a billion shekels to the Palestinian Authority constitutes blatant disregard of law and a gross affront to the families of terror victims,” it said in a statement.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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