The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians over the Palestinian Authority’s payment of grants to some 12,000 terrorists and families of shahids (“martyrs”) entered a new phase last week following the P.A.’s decision to distribute the funds through postal banks to circumvent Israeli law.

Amendment 67 of the military order issued by the commander of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan stipulates that banks through which these salaries are transferred are in violation of Israel’s anti-terrorism laws. The order warned bank managers operating in the P.A. that they and their employees will be considered criminal accomplices if they continue to manage the accounts of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel because doing so “supports, promotes, funds or rewards” terrorism, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

The law set a deadline of Dec. 31 for Palestinian banks to shut the relevant accounts, resulting in the P.A. being forced to pay three months in advance at the end of last year.

Last week, the P.A.’s chairman of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, declared that the March salaries of the security prisoners would be paid early in April through the post offices in the West Bank until automated teller machines (ATMs) are established from which the salaries can be withdrawn via a “smart” card. The Palestinian Ministry of Communications and Technology has already begun to install a network of ATMs in branches of the postal bank in the West Bank.

The P.A.’s postal banks are not considered “banking institutions.”

Abu Bakr also said 7,500 released terrorists would receive salaries for official jobs in the P.A.’s civilian and security institutions and would receive the wages in the same manner as government officials. Dozens of released terrorists demonstrated in Ramallah last week in front of Palestinian government buildings demanding faster hiring into P.A. institutions so that they could receive their salaries.

Last year, Israel began deducting P.A. tax revenues in accordance with the “offset law” approved by the Knesset and following the comparable American “Taylor Force Act” passed by Congress. P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said last week that Israel had deducted 52 million shekels ($15.6 million) each month from the tax revenues it collects for the P.A. to offset the terrorists’ salaries paid by the P.A.

The P.A. initially considered establishing an independent bank to transfer the grants to terrorists and their families but eventually dropped the idea. Instead, in the latest maneuver in its ongoing game of cat-and-mouse with Israel, it decided to make the payments through the postal bank branches.

Israel is obligated to transfer the tax dollars to the P.A. under the 1994 Paris Protocol. Moreover, Israel does not seek the P.A.’s collapse and wants tens of thousands of P.A. officials to continue to receive salaries. The P.A. takes shameless advantage and uses the money it receives from Israel to pay terrorists and their families.

P.A. head Mahmoud Abbas knows Israel is not interested in the collapse of the P.A. or in Hamas taking control of the West Bank after the May 2021 Palestinian elections. He is confident Israel will continue to transfer the funds, and so continues this confrontation with Israel with impunity, presenting himself as a “national hero” who cares about the rights of the Palestinian “fighters.” He claims that the P.A.’s financial support for terrorists and their families is a “red line” he will never cross.

An ironic postscript:

In December 2020, P.A. civilian and security employees protested to European donors that the P.A. finance minister had suspended their salaries because they supported the election of opponents to the Abbas regime.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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