Knesset advances bill fighting Palestinian payments to terrorists

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee advanced its attempts to penalize the PA for incentivizing terror through stipends.  

By: World Israel News Staff

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday approved a bill which requires the government to deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority pays terrorists from the taxes and tariffs that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Knesset plenum is expected to vote on the bill and pass it into law on Monday.

According to a Defense Ministry report based on the PA’s budget, the PA paid terrorists over a billion shekels in 2017 and increased the amount to over NIS 1.4 billion in its 2018 budget.

The bill, which had already passed a vote at the Foreign Affair and Defense Committee, is based on a proposal submitted by Member of Knesset (MK) Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and other lawmakers, with the addition of certain clauses from a similar government-sponsored bill.

The legislation determines that at the end of each year, the defense minister will draft a report on the funds the PA pays terrorists. The financial penalty will be determined by the report.

The bill mandates the deduction with no option for flexibility and leaves no room for the government to make a new decision each year, based on diplomatic and other considerations, on whether or not to make the deduction.

A draft of the law by the Defense Ministry sought to allow the government to decide on an annual basis whether to make the deduction or not, and by how much. The prime minister and defense minister would have the final word, according to this version of the bill.

The amount deducted was initially to be invested in a fund to pay damages to terror victims, but the bill was changed Wednesday and the funds would be frozen.

The Knesset bill is similar to the Taylor Force Act, which recently became law in the US. The Act was inspired by the murder of Taylor Force, a West Point Graduate and United States Army veteran, by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in March 2016.

Dispute between gov’t and bill authors

Ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly attempted to prevent the passage of the law in its current form and enlisted Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem to obtain a majority, including left-wing parties, to request a re-examination of wording in the law to offset the terrorist salaries.

Amsalem has denied the reports.

Relating to the disagreement between the government and the bill authors, Committee Chairman MK Avi Dichter said that “the bone of contention is between zero flexibility in the Committee’s proposal and absolute flexibility in the government’s proposal.”

“The Committee can certainly understand the circumstances of the cases in which there is room for consideration, and indeed we have dealt with this subject in depth in this meeting. However, with all our good intentions, we have not encountered any willingness on the part of the government to move these things forward through talks, let alone any concrete proposals,” Dichter said.

“The Committee understands silence no less than it understands words… so that from here a moral message will go forth that the State of Israel shall not be a conduit for funneling funds to terrorism and this absurdity will come to an end,” he stated.