According to official Palestinian figures, the Palestinian Authority paid terrorists held by Israel NIS 517 million ($143 million) in 2019, compared to NIS 502 million ($140 million) in 2018. In January 2020 alone, it paid out NIS 77 million ($21 million). The P.A. continues to pay salaries to terrorists held by Israel and to the families of terrorists killed in attacks despite the severe economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and despite the outcry over these payments both in Israel and around the world, and the financial measures that were imposed on the P.A. because of these payments.
The United States, the Netherlands and Australia have halted aid to the P.A. because of the salary payments, and the Trump Mideast peace plan includes the cancellation of the law under which the P.A. makes these payments as a precondition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel, for its part, is meant to implement the 2018 “Anti-Pay for Slay” law under which it withholds one-twelfth of the amount the P.A. paid the previous years to terrorists or their families from the monthly tax revenues it collects for the P.A. The Palestinians protested against this law and refused to accept the tax revenues from Israel if it were not the full amount. Ultimately, however, the sides came to an agreement under which the P.A. would accept the revenues, despite the deductions.
Nonetheless, even though we are in the fourth month of 2020, the Israeli Cabinet has not yet held a discussion about implementing this law in 2020, and it is thus possible that the funds for January, February and March have not yet been deducted. The security cabinet must confirm the amount that the P.A. spent in 2019 on terrorists’ salaries, and immediately start deducting the relevant funds from the monies they transfer every month to the P.A.
Following the outbreak of coronavirus, the P.A. asked Israel to transfer the tax revenues that it had withheld because of the terrorist salaries (about $180 million according to Palestinian sources). The request was refused, but instead, on March 22, Israel transferred NIS 120 million ($33 million) from funds that are disputed between the sides as part of its emergency plan to deal with the virus. Despite this and the cooperation between the sides over the coronavirus pandemic, the P.A. continues to spread false claims against Israel, accusing it of spreading the virus.
It is obvious that if the P.A. needs more resources to fight the disease, it can stop its payments to the terrorists.
The implementation of financial measures against the P.A. because of its noxious practice of encouraging terrorism by promising good salaries (which go up in line with the seriousness of the offense) to Palestinians who kill Israelis did not bring about the collapse of the P.A. or the end of security cooperation with Israel, despite the warnings by officials in Israel and the world. As I have said in the past, these threats by the P.A. are unimplementable as the very existence of the P.A. is the most important achievement of the Palestinian national movement, and since the security cooperation with Israel is far more beneficial to the P.A., which has to deal with the threat of Hamas, than it is to Israel.
Other countries need to condition their aid to the P.A. on halting payments to terrorists and on canceling the Palestinian law under which these payments are made. Once other European donors adopt this policy, the chances that the P.A. will alter its behavior will grow.
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He formerly served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.