Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) on Thursday decided to transfer to the Palestinian Authority half a billion shekels (roughly $128 million) in tax and customs Israel has collected for the PA and delayed its transfer for a variety of reasons, including a staggering debt the PA has accumulated for utilities, which are being paid by the Israeli taxpayer. But, apparently, the situation in the PA controlled parts of Judea and Samaria has grown near-catastrophic, and Kahlon decided to apply the kind of generosity for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas no Israeli citizen ever receives. Israel will also reduce the commission it charges the PA for serving as its tax collector and lender.
In addition, Kahlon and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have decided to issue thousands of new work permits to workers who reside in the PA. So, cover up well, Israeli civilians, the folks with the knives and scissors are coming in Sunday.
“Peace hasn’t broken out,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Yediot Aharonot Thursday night, adding, “It’s only a drop in the bucket — but it’s a crucial drop.”
Both Kahlon and Ya’alon are convinced, ostensibly based on Israeli intelligence, that the only way to calm the recent wave of terror is by improving the economic malaise over at the PA and introducing hope — supposedly because fully employed Arabs won’t go out with knives to kill Jews. The problem with this notion is that several Arab surveys have shown that the kids with the knives usually come from middle class homes, and they often leave their suicide notes on their brand new laptops and iPads.
Palestinian Finance and Planning Minister Shukri Bishara met with Kahlon a week ago Thursday and warned him that the PA is on the brink of economic collapse, with a deficit of NIS 1.5 billion ($380 million). The amount transferred by Israel should be enough to cover about a thirst of the deficit and pay teachers—who have been striking, as well as suppliers.
Apparently, Prime Minister Netanyahu does not object to the emergency aid to the PA, but has opted not to endorse it publicly, so it’s on Kahlon’s and Ya’alon’s record if it fails but Netanyahu could later claim it as his own should it succeed. For his part, Kahlon reiterated that this does not constitute a political move but merely a stopgap measure. He also emphasized that the money actually belongs to the PA, and that he expects the other side to express its gratitude by ceasing those incitement broadcasts, and that Abbas condemn the terror and “change the atmosphere.”
Good luck waiting for that one, bring a comfortable chair.
According to Yediot, there has been one change this week in the tone of the conversation between official Israel and the official PA: last Sunday Minister Bishara sent Kahlon an unusually friendly letter, especially these days, on official PA paper, saying (text translated from Hebrew), “I wish to express my deep appreciation following our meeting last Thursday. I hope that in our talks I was able to explain to you the seriousness of the financial challenges we must deal with, and as a result the need to find satisfactory solutions to the issues with which we dealt.”
Bishara continued: “I came out of our meeting with a feeling that thanks to your leadership and understanding we have reached a positive turning point and prepared the path for new beginnings in trade relations between Israel and ourselves. Even though the arrangements to which you consented are still far from what is needed for a global solution, I believe that they constitute a positive and welcome step forward.”