The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on ‎Wednesday approved the final draft of the so-called “terrorist wages” bill, which seeks to deduct the ‎payments that the Palestinian Authority makes to terrorists ‎and their families from the tax funds collected by ‎Israel for the P.A.‎

The move followed divisions that had emerged between ‎senior ministers and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‎over the wording of ‎the legislation proposal, which will be presented to ‎the Knesset plenum next week from its second and ‎third readings.‎

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, a mechanism was set up ‎for Israel to collect taxes—value-added tax and ‎customs fees—on behalf of the P.A. and transfer the money to it.‎

Those funds amount to about $100 million a month, ‎and the P.A. uses a considerable portion of them to ‎finance the stipends it pays to terrorists and their ‎families. In 2017, it spent NIS 1.23 billion ‎ ($358 million), or 7 percent of its total budget ‎for the year, on those stipends.‎

Officials in the National Security Council in the ‎Prime Minister’s Office convened a lengthy meeting ‎on the wording of the bill on Tuesday after ‎a disputed emerged between Defense Minister ‎Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali ‎Bennett on one side, and ‎Netanyahu and the National Security Council on the ‎other.‎

The ministers said they would oppose changing the ‎draft approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and ‎Defense Committee two weeks ago, against the ‎government’s position.‎

The committee debated two versions of the bill: the ‎first, which had been approved, stating that once ‎the deduction of Palestinian funds is enacted the ‎political echelon would be unable to rescind the ‎measure, and the second saying that the only ‎circumstance under which the cabinet would be able ‎to return deducted funds is if the defense minister ‎confirms that the P.A. has stopped paying terrorist ‎salaries for an entire year.‎

Netanyahu and the National ‎‎Security Council supported the softer version of the ‎bill, while Lieberman and Bennett supported the ‎stricter version. ‎

Wednesday’s vote backed the more harshly worded draft, rendering such deductions immutable.‎

The terrorist wages bill was sponsored by Knesset members Elazar ‎‎Stern (Yesh Atid), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) ‎‎and Avi Dichter (Likud).‎

‎“Insisting on principles paid off. The original ‎draft of the bill was approved. The Palestinian ‎Authority has to be made to understand that ‎supporting terrorist does not pay,” said Stern.‎

Dichter, who heads the Foreign Affairs and Defense ‎Committee, said, “This is a moral law that sends a ‎clear message to us, to the Palestinian Authority ‎and to the world. Israel will not be a conduit by ‎which terrorist is funded. That’s over.” ‎

Israel Hayom learned that intensive behind-the-scenes talks were held on the matter in the wake of ‎Lieberman’s and Bennett’s objections until the prime ‎minister and NSC officials agreed to accept the ‎already-approved draft.‎

‎’End the absurdity’

The current version of the bill stipulates that the ‎finance minister would deduct the P.A.’s permanent ‎monthly stipend for terrorists and their families ‎from the taxes Israel collects on the P.A.’s behalf. ‎According to this version of the bill, adopted by ‎the committee unanimously, once the finance minister ‎makes the decision, the deduction would be ‎irreversible.‎

This clause, which curtails the government’s ability ‎to roll back the deduction under appropriate ‎circumstances, has been the main point of contention ‎between Bennett and Lieberman, and the government.‎

The NSC’s position favors the softer version of the ‎bill, allowing the prime minister and defense ‎minister to use their discretion on the matter, but ‎to a large extent, this leaves the bill hollow.‎

On Tuesday afternoon, Lieberman came out in ‎opposition to the government’s official stance, ‎saying he would support the version Ilatov co-wrote. ‎Ilatov told Israel Hayom that he wants the ‎bill to remain untouched and would vote against a ‎revised version.‎

Bennett, chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi Party, ‎also came out against the second version of the ‎bill.‎

‎“The Palestinian Authority transfers over a billion ‎shekel a year to terrorists who murdered Israeli ‎civilians and to the families of terrorists who were ‎killed. This absurdity has to stop, which is ‎precisely what the bill calls for, but at the last ‎moment a clause was ‘innocently’ inserted to ‎prohibit us from automatically deducting every ‎shekel the P.A. transfers for terror purposes,” he ‎said.‎

Consequently, Bennett announced that Habayit ‎Hayehudi MKs on the Foreign Affairs and Defense ‎Committee would vote against the revision.‎Stern told Israel Hayom that “the Palestinians and ‎the world need to know that we won’t transfer money ‎to terror. If they stop paying terrorists and their ‎families, no one will oppose them receiving the ‎money.”‎