The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee refused to vote in favor of the Defense Ministry bill meant to combat Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists, because it leaves open the option for the government to do little or nothing, MKs said on Tuesday.
There are two versions of the bill meant to curb the PA’s so-called “payfor- slay” scheme, by which terrorists who attack Israelis receive lifelong salaries; and if they are killed in the attack, their families receive the monthly payments.
Both bills allow for the government to deduct the amount the PA pays terrorists – over $400 million (NIS 1.2 billion) in its 2018 budget – from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the PA. However, the bill by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud) requires the government to do so, whereas the Defense Ministry bill allows the government to deduct only part of the amount – or not to deduct any money at all – if there are reasons of national security or international relations.
Dichter gave the Defense Ministry two weeks to come up with a different draft.
“We in the committee cannot pass the government law as it was proposed,” Dichter said. “This is a matter of values, in which the committee has a clear, declared stance – coalition and opposition as one.”
Stern said “the proposal to give the Security Cabinet the decision not to deduct any of the funds makes this bill superfluous. This bill… is so that there will not be any new[ly] bereaved families.”
“Anyone who wants peace must know that the PA’s payments to terrorism not only encourage future terrorist attacks, which will cost human lives, but pushes peace farther away,” he added.
Doron Mizrahi – who lost his brother in the 2003 Café Hillel bombing in Jerusalem and whose son Ziv was stabbed to death in 2015 – told the committee that allowing the payments to continue “is taking the knife that murdered my son and turning it in our hearts.”
“It’s not enough that there’s not a sufficient punishment – that the terrorist’s house wasn’t demolished – and there’s no deterrence: Killing Jews is [also] a well-paying business! It cannot be that we transfer money to them. We must stop this,” Mizrahi said.
Maurice Hirsch, former head of the IDF Prosecution for Judea and Samaria and current head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, also argued that the Defense Ministry bill would be ineffective.
“Our goal is to make sure that the rewarding, inciting and promoting of terrorism stops,” he said. “What the government is saying is, give us the ability to continue transferring money even though we positively know part of it goes to supporting terrorism. This completely contradicts [Defense Minister Avigdor] Liberman’s ostensibly strong stance on fighting terrorism. These things don’t go together.”
Hirsch told The Jerusalem Post that the bill is “leaving an opening for pressure. The PA can invest all its money in [paying terrorists] and then, for fear of the collapse of the PA, we’ll give them money. And there could be international pressure. These conditions are so the law will never be.”
According to Hirsch, the IDF is trying to scare the committee, saying that deducting the funds will cause the PA to collapse.
“This argument is truly ludicrous, because the money being taken away isn’t going to health, education or welfare – it’s all going to pay money to terrorists and their families,” he said. “The PA budget is over 18 billion shekels, and the terrorist payments are over a billion. That won’t bring about the collapse of the PA; it just means the terrorists won’t be getting their salaries.”
In addition, Hirsch said the amount the PA gives to terrorists is on the rise, increasing 2% from 2017 to 2018.