Financial gestures offered by Gantz appear to violate the 1994 Paris Protocol agreed to between Israel and the PA.
By Israel Kasnett, JNS.org
As details emerged from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Dec. 28 meeting at his private residence in Rosh Ha’ayin with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, many Israelis were left in shock.
According to various reports, Gantz had offered Abbas a series of “confidence-building measures” as described by the Israeli Defense Ministry, which included economic benefits to the PA with regard to VAT, import taxes and excise duties; a NIS 100 million ($32.2 million) loan; 1,100 entry permits for Palestinian businessmen; and dozens of VIP permits for senior P.A. officials.
Gantz’s other concession to the Palestinians includes the legalization of the status of 9,500 undocumented Palestinians and foreigners living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The question many Israelis are asking themselves is, what confidence-building measures did Israel receive from the Palestinians in return? And why is Israel offering so many significant concessions to the Palestinians in the first place?
Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told JNS that the meeting had “a façade of intimacy that is inappropriate.”
“All Israelis, including Gantz, should not forget that Abbas is not a friend, but the enemy,” he said. “He is a Holocaust denier, pays salaries to terrorists and refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”
Gantz’s office published a generic statement devoid of details, saying, “The defense minister emphasized the shared interest in strengthening security cooperation, preserving security stability, and preventing terrorism and violence.”
But the details were subsequently publicized. By making these far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians – with no known Palestinian concessions in return – Gantz appears to be violating the 1994 Paris Protocol agreed to between Israel and the PA.
That agreement hammered out the details that would allow Israel to collect taxes on behalf of the P.A. and clarified what services Israel could charge for. Gantz has now made changes to the agreement without bringing any legislation to the Knesset for debate.
What also makes this meeting difficult for many to understand is that Abbas is personally leading a campaign to prosecute Gantz in the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
Right-wing criticism came from Gantz’s coalition partners and the opposition.
Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the coalition’s right-wing New Hope party told Radio 103FM on Wednesday, “I wouldn’t have invited to my home someone who pays salaries to murderers of Israelis and also wants to put senior IDF officers in prison in The Hague, including the host himself.”
The Likud released a statement calling Bennett’s government “an Israeli-Palestinian government that is returning Abbas and the Palestinians to the agenda… Concessions that will be dangerous to Israeli security are only a matter of time.”
However, the meeting was praised by the United States, which has been pushing to renew ties with the Palestinian Authority that had largely been severed under Trump.
“We hope confidence-building measures discussed will accelerate momentum to further advance freedom, security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike in 2022,” tweeted State Department Spokesman Ned Price.
According to Maurice Hirsch, head of legal strategies at Palestinian Media Watch, the aim of the meeting was ostensibly to prop up the PA.
“The problem,” he said, “is the Palestinian people hate the PA so much, they would vote for Hamas in a heartbeat because of the perceived and real corruption and the feeling that there is complete and utter nepotism.”
By meeting with Abbas and offering such far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians without demanding any concessions in return, Gantz is feeding into the perception of corruption, possibly driving more Palestinians toward Hamas and the terror group’s jihadist ideology against Israel.
Hirsch said that the NIS 100 million loan for the Palestinians is “positively going to go to terrorists. It is outrageous.”
“By giving money to the Palestinians, Israel is giving up leverage,” he said.
Furthermore, Hirsch noted, Gantz is making agreements with the PA without any real oversight and without presenting any type of legislation. “It should require a change in the law,” he said.
“Gantz is doing everything he can to undermine the law,” added Hirsch. “It is unbelievable how much damage Gantz is doing under the radar and completely without the general public actually knowing what he is doing.”
Inbar agreed that Israel is actively supporting the P.A., because it is “afraid of the collapse of the PA that serves us well in the short term, sparing Israel the responsibility for managing the lives of the Palestinians.”
Additionally, Inbar said, “Abbas exploits the leverage of weakness to get away with many things. Lending the PA money is a euphemism for financial support as the bankrupt PA has no intention or means to return any loan. Ganz is appropriating funds to the Palestinians, with questionable legal and/or political authority. Ganz is using the fragility of the coalition to pursue policies that are not consensual in the government or outside it.”