(April 5, 2022 / JNS) Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz continues to flout Israeli law and transfer money to the Palestinian Authority, according to the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum. The problem, according to Kohelet, is that Israeli law prohibits money transfers to the P.A. as a consequence of its “pay-for-slay” policy that awards Palestinian terrorists with money for killing Israelis.
According to Israeli law, any withheld tax payments made by Israel to the P.A. must deduct the amount that the P.A. paid in the previous year to terrorists or their families. These payments, known colloquially as “pay-for-slay,” are fixed pensions paid by the P.A. to terrorists, including Israeli citizens, as direct compensation for the murder of Jews. The payment amount is determined by the number of people killed in the attack and the severity of the terrorist’s sentence.
In his meeting in December 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.
Kohelet sent a request to Gantz on Jan. 16 under Israel’s Freedom of Information Act, asking for information and details on his agreement to transfer such huge sums 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, at the time.
Now, Kohelet announced it has finally received a reply to its January request.
In what Kohelet described as a “cryptic response,” the Ministry of Finance stated that it had “made a deduction in accordance with the law.”
The problem, according to Kohelet, is that the ministry officials failed to explain how the “advance payments” and “loans” conform to the law. In addition, they offered no legal source that could justify this policy.
“As Israel faces another wave of terror, it is preposterous to see our own government appearing to skirt Israeli law to send hush money to the Palestinian Authority,” said Erlich. “We call upon the government to explain how Gantz could transfer funds to the Palestinians while they continue pay-for-slay.”
Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of the international law department at Kohelet, told JNS that “one of Israel’s greatest diplomatic achievements was the United States passing of the Taylor Force Act, which bans U.S. money from going to the P.A. while they maintain pay for slay. When Israel breaks its own law to the same effect, it undermines this pillar of American support for Israel.”
According to Kohelet, “transferring funds as an ‘advance’ or 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.”
‘PA, Hamas continue to stoke terror and hatred’
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, 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.
Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, accused Abbas as being “responsible for much of the incitement, including by his insistence on paying salaries to arrested terrorists and monthly stipends to the families of killed terrorists.”
While the Israeli government “wanted to believe” and “convinced themselves” that they could buy quiet, said Kuperwasser, especially during the sensitive period of the religious and nationalist holidays in April and May, “they miss the point.”
The P.A. and Hamas, as well as elements of the Israeli Arab leadership, “are not in full control of the terror threats,” he said.
“More disturbingly,” said Kuperwasser, “the P.A. and Hamas continue to stoke terror and hatred, and Hamas calls for terror from the areas not under its control, including by Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and within Israel.”
According to Kuperwasser, the current terror wave, which so far has seen 11 people murdered in just one week, “appears to stem from the ongoing incitement by the P.A. and the other terror groups; the heightened Islamist devotion to Ramadan; nationalistic emotions on ‘Land Day’; inspiration from the ‘success’ of the initial attacks; and the growing frustration over the marginalization of the Palestinian issue on the international and regional stages.”
Maurice Hirsch, director of legal strategies at Palestinian Media Watch, told JNS that “there is clear evidence that the Israeli government is illegally transferring money to the P.A. As Palestinian Media Watch exposed in January, answers provided by the Israeli Ministry of Finance show that the government breached Israel’s anti-‘pay-for-slay’ law by both transferring monies that had previously been seized and by refraining from carrying out additional seizures required by the law.”
“In addition,” he said, “the government seems to have provided additional funds, claiming on the one hand that it is entitled to do so under the laws implementing the Oslo Accords, while simultaneously claiming on the other hand that the details of these supposedly legitimate transfers are secret.”
“The bottom line,” he said, “is a harsh indictment against Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government. Not only are they assisting the P.A. to reward terror—to reward terrorist murderers—they are doing so in a manner that breaches both the letter and the spirit of the law.”
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