Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) on Sunday plan to submit for the cabinet’s approval an updated procedure to prevent Arab debtors who reside in the Palestinian Authority and have lingering unpaid debts to Israeli lenders from entering Israeli territory – unless they settle their debts within 30 days, Ha’aretz reported Thursday.
The procedure was approved in 1988, in an attempt to force Arab debtors in Judea and Samaria to transfer payments to state authorities and private creditors, but according to members of the defense and justice ministries, the original procedure proved useless because the Palestinian Authority refused to help enforce it.
The new procedure was recently formulated by a professional team from both ministries, in an attempt to reduce the mounting collection orders in Israel’s law enforcement agencies against PA Arabs who owe Israel utility payments and fines, as well as debts to Israeli individuals and institutions. These are estimated at $145 million.
According to the existing procedure, Israeli creditors may apply to the Legal Aid Officer in the Justice Ministry in order to prevent entry into the country of a debtor from the Palestinian Authority, provided that the time specified on the payment document has passed, or if the debtor has not filed an application to appear in court.
Subsequently, the Justice Ministry Commissioner attaches the debtor’s name to the list of debtors forwarded by the Civil Administration and the District Coordination Office to representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
Afterwards, the Authority’s representatives are required to alert the debtors that their entry into Israel will be banned within 30 days, unless they settle their debt. However, the PA has not cooperated with this procedure, and therefore the entry of Arab debtors into Israel has not been stopped.
The new procedure states that instead of transferring the names of debtors to representatives of the Palestinian Authority, when the debtor enters Israel, they will be notified of the existing debt, and be required to settle the debt within 30 days – before being permanently banned from entering Israel.
In the event that a debtor has no valid entry permit to Israel, their application for an entry permit will be denied and they will receive information about their debt and the manner in which payment may be arranged. In case of non-payment of the debt, entry into Israel will be banned.
“The days when we were tolerant of Palestinians are over,” Justice Minister Shaked said in a statement. “I hope that the amendment will lead to the Palestinians paying their debts and ending the discrimination against the citizens of Israel and the state authorities.”