(May 14, 2018 / JNS) Israel’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will hold a hearing om Tuesday to discuss the government’s proposed law to offset payments to the Palestinian Authority that are then paid out to jailed terrorists and families of terrorists killed in the act of attempted murder. Central to the committee’s discussions will be a waiver clause loophole that would allow the Israeli government to make the withheld payments to the Palestinian Authority at a later date.
Each month, Israel pays approximately NIS 600 million ($170 million) per month to P.A. as part of a tax-collection arrangement brokered during the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby Israel collects and transfers import duties at Israeli ports on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Under the proposed government law, the Israeli tax transfers would be offset by any sums that are scheduled to be paid out to terrorists or their families.
Yet within the government’s proposed version of the law, offset funds would be held aside while a waiver clause would enable the government to take executive decision to pass the funds, regardless of the P.A.’s adherence to the law’s requirements.
Itamar Marcus, founder of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) that monitors payments made by the P.A. to terrorists and their families told JNS that “the waiver makes the law completely ineffective.”
In March, the United States passed the Taylor Force Act that effectively ends any American foreign aid to the P.A. unless it ceases to pay stipends to the terrorists and their families.
New York-based hedge fund executive Sander Gerber, who played a significant role in advancing the Taylor Force Act and is actively promoting the passage of an equivalent law in Israel, notes that “the U.S. law is strong particularly because it doesn’t have a waiver.”
“We managed to get Taylor Force passed without any type of waiver whatsoever, which was a difficult and noteworthy accomplishment,” he told JNS. “Any Israeli equivalent of the law should also be passed without a waiver.”
In addition to the government law, is a stronger version of the law first proposed by opposition Knesset member Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid Party). While Stern’s law calls does not provide for any waiver, laws advanced by the government have a greater chance of being passed by the parliamentary coalition.
In between readings, laws can be adjusted and strengthened. For a law to pass, it must go through three readings in the Knesset. Both the government’s law and Stern’s law have passed their first readings.
An ad-hoc coalition of NGOs, including PMW, and terror victims has been invited to Tuesday’s committee hearing, where they will recommend changes that would shore up the government law’s loophole.
This law is being advanced by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has recently tweeted tough statements on the P.A.’s “pay-to-slay” scheme—a term coined by Gerber.
After the government law passed its first reading, Lieberman tweeted that the “insanity of transferring money to the Palestinian Authority, which then uses it against us by encouraging terror, will stop,” adding “we’ll make sure the bill is approved in second and third readings as soon as possible.”
Yet, according to PMW’s Marcus, “while the Defense Minister has offered tough talk, the law he is proposing has no teeth,” as long as the waiver exists. “Lieberman himself can strengthen this law,” he said.
“All Knesset members—right-wing and left-wing alike—agree that the waiver takes away all of the law’s power,” continued Marcus. “We are working on with the committee on compromises that will significantly strengthen the law, and limit the government’s ability to institute a waiver.”
Rather than have the funds sit on the side, with the possibility of a later transfer, Marcus and other proponents of the law are pushing for any offset funds to be paid out to victims of terror, as opposed to the terrorists. Many victims and families of victims have rulings from Israeli courts that entitle them to reparation payments from the Palestinian Authority—the majority of which have never been paid.
“All judgments need to be paid out to the victims of terror,” said Marcus. “That is the first priority.”