Israel, US hold intensive talks on support for PA: report

Various sources indicate that the Americans have recently been deeply and continuously involved in a number of pending issues between Israel and the PA.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke on Monday with the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Israel Michael Ratney and discussed a series of actions designed to expand coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

CIA head William Burns arrived in Israel on Tuesday, and although most of the agenda is devoted to the Iranian threat, the parties are also expected to discuss matters between Israel and the PA.

Various sources indicate that the Americans have recently been deeply and continuously involved in a number of pending issues between Israel and the PA, including preventing some crises when they intervened in the evacuation of the illegal Arab residents in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

They are also reportedly working to thwart the passing of a bill in the Knesset designed to prevent the reopening of the American consulate in eastern Jerusalem.

The PA is now expecting determined U.S. involvement following Israel’s decision to deduct NIS 100 million from tax money it collects on its behalf, out of a total of expected NIS 597 million, a penalty stipulated by Israeli law for the PA’s payments to prisoner terrorists and their families in 2020.

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Senior officials in Ramallah have sharply criticized Israel, which – along with contacts and commitments to the US. – has decided to clear the taxes it collects for the PA, which is in serious financial crisis.

TPS has learned that the U.S. is in favor of the PA’s position and has expressed strong protest to Israel. The PA now hopes that the American involvement will lead to the postponement or cancelation of the tax deduction.

The issue of tax money was included in the discussions between Gantz and Ratney. Messages from Israel received by the PA reportedly encouraged Ramallah, which hopes that Gantz’s position and that of senior members of the defense establishment, including the IDF and the Shin Bet, will lead to actual change in Israeli policy.

A PA source explained that “the aggravating economic crisis comes as a result of the significant decrease in the volume of tax collection, but even more so in the volume of donations transferred to the PA.”

The PA is now considering putting a large part of the public sector workers on unpaid leave as a measure designed to alleviate the dwindling public coffers. A senior PA official told TPS that “the Authority will not be able to pay the July salaries, and the salaries paid these days, for the month of June, are probably the last time they will be paid in full.”

It should be noted that an additional amount of tax money has not yet been transferred from Israel to the PA for its payment to terrorists in 2019.

Israel transfers about NIS 600 million (appr. $186 million) a month to the PA. This amount, along with the salaries of 120,000 PA workers employed in Israel, constitutes the majority of the PA’s budget, a large part of which is used to pay huge public sector salaries and security mechanisms. The Palestinian Authority spends $170 million a month on salaries, including those for 136,000 officials and retirees as well as for terrorist prisoners.

This year, the PA received only $30 million out of $10 million in pledged donations, which in 2019 stood at $ 1.4 billion.

The PA says that in the last 14 years, Israel has deducted $10 billion from its budget for various reasons, including non-payment of electricity bills.

Meanwhile, Arab media outlets reported that recently, following the visit of State Department representative Hady Amr to the region, a tripartite agreement was signed between Israel, the U.S. and the PA. The agreement stipulates, among other things, that the media and curricula in the Palestinian education system will be monitored and that the joint Committee for the Prevention of Incitement will be re-established.

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The agreement also stipulates, according to Arab sources, that the salaries of the families of the terrorist prisoners will be reevaluated, according to recommendations to be formulated between Israel and the U.S.

In addition, the PA Treasury Department will be closely monitored by the U.S. in order to expose the effects of corruption, and there will be American supervision of political arrests conducted by the PA.

Senior PA officials agreed in principle to deal with incitement in the PA media. They demanded, however, that Israel also prevent incitement, as they claimed there had been an increase in calls against Arabs and Islam since Operation Guardian of the Walls in May and the Muslim riots in Israeli cities.

A senior PA official said that even before President Joe Biden entered the White House, the Americans had sent a series of messages to the PA which, according to Arab media, now appear in the tripartite document, and that the PA had agreed in principle to move forward in these areas.