Gantz further delays sanctions on West Bank banks for paying PA terror stipends

Families of Israelis killed in terror attacks pan decision, which defense minister’s office says was made at recommendation of security officials

Illustrative: Palestinians wait in line at an ATM in the West Bank city of Nablus on July 2, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians wait in line at an ATM in the West Bank city of Nablus on July 2, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has further delayed implementation of a military decree that would sanction banks in the West Bank for dispensing stipends from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to convicted terrorists and families of terrorists.

Gantz signed off on freezing implementation of the edict over the weekend for an additional 45 days.

“It’s illogical and immoral that Israel is helping the Palestinian Authority pay blood money as salaries to terrorists,” Bohrim B’Haim, an organization of families who lost relatives in terror attacks, told the Ynet news site.

The father of Shir Hajaj, an IDF soldier killed in a January 2017 car-ramming attack in Jerusalem, slammed Gantz over the decision.

“The money is the main factor that motivates terror and it’s clear to everyone that if [you] stop the money you prevent terror,” Herzl Hajaj said. “Unfortunately, Benny Gantz has again decided to freeze the decree against the banks, so terrorists and their families will continue to receive salaries for the murder of our children with the approval of the defense minister of the State of Israel.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gantz’s office pushed back on the criticism, saying the decision was made in accordance with the recommendations of security officials.

In early June, Gantz had delayed implementing the order until mid-July.

The Israeli government has long decried the tens of millions of dollars the PLO pays every year to Palestinians convicted of terrorism and to families of dead assailants, which Israel says encourages terror attacks by offering a direct incentive to carry them out.

After an Israeli military edict in early May criminalized PA government funding for convicted terrorists, several banks closed or froze prisoners’ accounts in the West Bank and Jordan. Qadri Abu Bakr, director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, later announced that salaries had been dispensed.

Earlier this month, four banks refused to transfer PLO stipends, ostensibly for fear of Israeli sanctions that had been set to go into effect this month.

The refusal to dispense the money came after two months in which the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay any of its employees due to a massive fiscal crisis.

Despite the looming Israeli sanctions, Ramallah has vowed to continue the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare and compensation for what it claims is an unfair military justice system.

The military order applies substantial parts of Israel’s anti-terror law to the West Bank. The law states that any person or body handing financial aid to anyone, with the purpose being to facilitate, advance, fund or reward terror-related offenses, is committing a crime that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine.

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