According to a report presented to the security cabinet by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and prepared by the National Counterterrorism Financing Office of the Ministry of Defense, the Palestinian Authority transferred 597 million shekels (182.82 million dollars) in “indirect support for terrorism in 2020”.
“In light of this report, these funds will be frozen on the monthly payments that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
This is not the first time that the security cabinet has withheld certain tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority in order to penalize it for payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead assailants. In November, the cabinet voted to withhold around NIS 600 million from a transfer of around NIS 2.4 billion from so-called “pay to kill” payments.
Palestinian officials have indicated over the past year that they are considering reforming the PA’s controversial policy of paying salaries to Palestinians convicted by Israel of security and terrorism offenses. The issue of prisoners has long hampered the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic efforts in Washington, and Israel has repeatedly invoked terrorist financing to criticize Ramallah in international forums.
Senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel in December that there is renewed willingness to change the way it pays allowances to Palestinian security prisoners, as well as families of terrorists and others killed by Israelis, aims to lay the foundations for a new diplomatic push. .
The Israeli flag seen atop Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 1, 2015 (Miriam Alster / Flash90)
The administration of US President Joe Biden, which took office in January, has repeatedly urged the Palestinian Authority to end its policy of “compensating those imprisoned for acts of terrorism”.
But just a month ago, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reportedly approved a payment of more than $ 40,000 to the family of Muhannad Halabi, who killed two Israelis in a stabbing attack in 2015 in Jerusalem and was later shot dead by security forces.
In March, a Palestine Liberation Organization official told The Times of Israel that Ramallah may have paid up to 600 million shekels ($ 181 million) in 2020 in salaries to Palestinians jailed by Israel for crimes security and their families.