On Monday night, Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed to Israeli reporters the details of his meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, which turn out to be both costly and well outside the current coalition government’s policies. So much so, that on Tuesday morning, Religious Zionism Chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich demanded in a letter to the Ministers of Defense and Finance as well as the Attorney General to reveal the budgetary source for one concession, a half a billion shekel ($155.6 million) loan to the Palestinian Authority. Smotrich also demanded that Finance Committee Chairman MK Alex Kushnir (Israel Beiteinu) call an emergency meeting during the Knesset recess to debate the issue.
The half a billion shekel loan to the PA—the repayment of which is scheduled to start only in a year, in June 2022, if at all—will offset the money Israel withholds from customs and taxes it collects on behalf of the PA that covers the salaries the PA pays its terrorist murderers behind bars in Israel and terrorist murderers’ families, in cases where the terrorist murderers are no more.
See how it all works out?
But wait, there’s more: Israel will authorize the Palestinian Authority to regulate the status of 3,000 PA Arabs without identity cards (or is it 5000?), which also include PA Arabs who have immigrated abroad.
Also, Israel will issue 15,000 new work permits in Israel to PA Arab, and transfer PA-based businesses operating in Israel to digital accounting, ensuring they pay their taxes to the PA, an amount estimated at NIS 10 million ($3.2 million) annually. That last move has already been approved by the Finance Ministry and will take effect on November 1.
You think we’re done? Think again. Gantz also reassured the chairman that Israel will uphold its commitment to expanding Arab construction in Area C – even as Jewish construction there is being dwarfed to a measly 2,000 housing units.
Gantz argued that these moves all stem from the same principle: The stronger the Palestinian Authority, the weaker Hamas would be. The more governance the Palestinian Authority commands, the more security there will be and Israel would be able to reduce its intervention.
Sounds familiar? You are not wrong. That was the justification offered by the late Yitzhak Rabin’s peacemakers on the eve of signing the Oslo accords. Let trusted PLO commander Yasser Arafat take over in the “occupied territories” and function as Israel’s security guard instead of the IDF…
“The transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority without conditioning it on stopping the payment of salaries to the families of the terrorists encourages terrorism and harms the global fight against it,” Smotrich said Tuesday morning, and asked: “By what moral right can the State of Israel demand from the world to exert pressure on countries and entities that support terrorism if it itself financially supports an entity that directly encourages terrorism?”
“There’s no money for public hospitals, no money for career soldiers’ salaries, but there’s money for the artificial respiration of those who act against Israel in The Hague and imposes a strategic and security danger on the State of Israel,” Smotrich lamented.
Shurat HaDin President Nitzana Darshan-Leitner issued a response to Gantz’s announcement, saying, “It’s inconceivable that only two hours after we had been informed of the bitter death of the late fighter Barel Hadaria Shmueli Z’l, the Israeli government decides to award a prize to terrorism. This is a delusional decision, detached from reality. Israel will pay the price of strengthening the Palestinian Authority with the blood of the victims. After all, without the incitement of the Palestinian Authority, there would have been no knife attacks and ramming attacks. People would not be stabbed to death at Tapuach Junction, or run over by an enthusiastic and agitated terrorist. Shurat Hadin will consider a petition to the High Court if the state does not condition this assistance package on the PA ending its incitement to murder Jews.”
Finally, on Monday, Hussein al-sheik, Head of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs, tweeted that an agreement had been reached with the Israeli government on “Palestinian family reunification.”
“We have reached an agreement with the Israeli government on the Palestinian families’ reunification case, to include 5,000 as a first batch in the road to finalizing this file entirely in a prearranged timeframe,” al-sheik tweeted.
So, is it 3,000 as Gantz suggested, or 5,000? Is it a one-time thing, or a regular, recurring move, as al-sheik suggested? Is the Bennett-Lapid government selling us out?
Oh, and by the way, who said having a strong Palestinian Authority was a good thing?