Analysis: Why Netanyahu opposes a bill against Palestinian funding of terror

The prime minister attempted to block a bill that would stop the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays stipends to terrorists and their families. Why?  

By: Mati Wagner, World Israel News

The reasoning behind a bill passed Wednesday by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is simple: Israel should stop facilitating Palestinian incentivization of terrorism.

According to figures provided by the committee, every year the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays NIS 1.2 billion ($300 million) to terrorists and their families.

Israel indirectly makes this possible by transferring to the PA tax revenues collected by Israeli customs authorities on Palestinian goods sold to Israelis.

Lawmakers from both the coalition and the opposition voted unanimously to send the bill to the Knesset for ratification. It is expected to be passed by a large majority when it comes up for a vote on Monday.

The US has already passed a similar law called the Taylor Force Act, which blocks most US aid to the PA as long as it maintains its policy of paying stipends to terrorists and their families.

Yet, surprisingly, a law that the US supports and which is set to be voted into law in the Knesset, for obvious moral reasons, has been opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu attempted to amend the legislation so that the cabinet would have the power to decide whether or not to block the transfer of funds to the PA. But the amendment was rejected, largely out of concern that the cabinet would come under international pressure to backtrack.

Why would Netanyahu oppose legislation that is so obviously justified and reasonable?

The prime minister is concerned that blocking the transfer of funds would precipitate the toppling of the PA, which would have negative ramifications for Israel as well as for the Palestinians.

The US Congress had similar concerns before it passed the Taylor Force Act.

If the PA insisted on continuing to fund jihadists and their families after the US cut funding, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas vowed it would, good projects that benefit Palestinian society might be terminated. The PA might not be able to properly provide water, electricity and health services if it were to lose a full $300 million from its annual budget.

Democrats got on board after being assured US funds would continue to fund humanitarian projects.

Collapse of the PA collapse would result in anarchy and force Israel to resume direct responsibility for well over a million Palestinians living under the aegis of the PA.

Security cooperation between Israel and the PA is essential for the ongoing war against Palestinian terror.

Palestinians faced with a choice

But the question remains: Why does the PA insist on incentivizing terror at such a great financial cost? That is the question MK Avi Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, asked. His answer is that if the Palestinians want to prevent the toppling of the PA, they must stop funding terrorism. In the meantime, Israel will cut off funds to the PA.

Palestinians are faced with a choice. Do they want to live under a regime that actively supports terrorism against innocent civilians and glorifies acts of violence?

As long as Palestinian political culture prioritizes violence against Israelis above nation-building and economic development for Palestinians, there will be no peace.

As a pragmatic leader, Netanyahu is right to be concerned about the ramifications of the bill that was advanced Wednesday in the Knesset. On the other hand, facilitating terror is no option.