My headline is, at the same time, both honest and imprecise, but equally valid on both counts.
By the very nature of the convoluted region’s politics, and as a direct consequence of Israel’s military victories over her long-time foes in the Arab world, Israel takes, processes and distributes to the Palestinian Authority, (PA), all taxes, customs revenue, v.a.t etc. As an example of how this works, Israel continues to collect customs duties and the “value-added tax” on imports that came through Israeli ports. But if those imports ended up in the Palestinian areas, Israel would have to turn that money over to the PA. Israel is also supposed to send back the value-added tax that Palestinians pay for Israeli goods, as well as any excise taxes that Palestinians have to pay for fuel, cigarettes, and alcohol.
As any tax collector, employed in any Government, anywhere; will tell you, it is a ‘Truth’ that whatever the politics, money will move, taxes will be collected and delivered, even amongst the bitterest of enemies. After the peace accords were signed in the 1990’s, the arrangements were firmed up, and every month, Israeli and PA tax authorities sit together and work out how much is due, how much is paid. The tax take, via Jerusalem to the PA, is somewhat around half of the PA’s money which they then distribute to the PA’s employees; teachers, sewage workers, everyone.
But one single item in the Palestinian monetary armoury, as it were, is a ‘given’. The PA continue to pay large sums of cash to fund the families of the “Martyrs”, know also to the Israelis as simply “Terrorists” who either died or lie in Israeli prisons as they killed or maimed innocent Isaeli citizens. A couple of times over the years since the agreement, the Israelis blocked either all or part of the tax payments due the PA, as a mark of their firm disapproval of their opponents paying all this cash to the families of dead or imprisoned Palestinian criminals, as they are definitely not viewed by the Israelis as ‘Martyrs’, or anything nearing that phrase.
But, equally depressingly, the Israelis revert to the ‘status quo’, and ante up with the full tax amounts, which number in the millions of dollars: seemingly ignoring the facts that they are, literally, funding the very terrorists who have killed their own, either soldiers or civilians.
So far, so weird. But there is now on the Israeli Government Statutes, a Law which states that the payment of ‘blood money’ to the PA is now unlawful, and has been since 2018.
Elazar Stern is a Knesset Member with Yesh Atid. He served as a Major General in the Israel Defense Forces and as Head of the IDF Personnel Directorate. He is the Chair of the Knesset Lobby on Religion and State.
He writes, “The law was written to disincentivize terror, thus protecting Israelis, and negating it puts all of us in far greater danger.
It was sent as a strong message to the Palestinian Authority leadership that we will act against the machinery of terror and bloodshed and ensure that their over 100 year war of violent rejectionism must be defeated.
If we truly seek peace, prosperity and a better future for all the peoples of the region then we must ensure victory over these bloody war aims.
It is clear that the foundational axle of this bloody conflict, which has claimed far too many lives on all sides, is based on the rejection of the Jewish people’s rights to sovereignty in its national and indigenous homeland, and the tactics of terrorism have been the primary instrument to secure this goal.
If we do not break, defeat and dismantle the apparatus of terror then the conflict simply can not end and more blood will be shed.
So, Netanyahu, as he has just cobbled together a Government Coalition of sorts, is now faced with stating whether he upholds the Law, cutting off the terror-support share of the legitimate tax funds to be sent across to the PA: and thus bringing a whirlwind of criticism down upon his head from all his global critics, or disobeying that same law, and possibly breaking up his fragile Coalition.
Solomon’s judgement doesn’t even come close!