Palestinian Authority officials on Monday confirmed Israeli media reports that Israel had tried several times in recent months to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to the Authority – which refused the funds each time. PA Foreign Minister Ri’ad al-Maliki told PA Radio on Monday that Israel transferred money to PA bank accounts three times – several times not even informing the PA that it was doing so.
The transfers were the subject of a meeting Sunday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Concerned that the PA economy was about to fail altogether, the two discussed new ideas about how to convince PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept the balance of funds that Israel is supposed to transfer to the PA, after some NIS 500 million was deducted from the total, the same amount that the PA pays terrorists and their families in pensions and payments.
Those deductions were the result of Knesset legislation passed last year that penalizes the PA for transferring cash to terrorists, deducting the funds from the amounts Israel collects in taxes and duties on imports passing through Israeli ports on behalf of the PA. After the law passed, the PA announced it would not accept any money from Israel.
According to Kan News, the PA has been true to its word. Israel tried to transfer the balance of the money after the deductions – amounting to over NIS 600 million – to the PA, which has withheld payment to its civil servants and police for months because of a lack of funds. Israel contacted the PA twice to arrange for the transfer, but the money was rejected. At least one time Israel attempted to make a cash transfer directly into the accounts of the PA in Ramallah Banks – but the transfer was rejected.
Speaking to Reshet Bet, PA Prisoners Minister Ashraf al-Jaramy said that the PA would not accept any money from Israel as long as the cuts relating to terrorist payments were in effect. “Israel is violating the agreements with us,” he said. “The situation here is horrible – not just the economy but the political system, construction in the settlements. Everything Israel and the U.S. does brings us to disappointment and depression. The money Israel is withholding is over 60% of the PA’s budget. We cannot continue like this.” Al-Jaramy added that he believed that the PA would soon “take stronger action on Israel, perhaps declaring that the Oslo Agreements are dead and that the PA has no more commitments under them.”
Likud MK Avi Dichter told Reshet Bet that it was the PA that was solely responsible for its woes. “8% of the PA’s budget goes to pay terrorists,” he said. “If they are talking about stability, they will need to understand that they cannot continue to fund terror and to ask Israel to help them maintain stability. We are prepared to send them the money that is coming to them. To Abbas we say the money is awaiting you, you can take it at any time. If you decide not to take it and thus upset the stability of the PA – that is your problem,” he added.