The security cabinet voted on Sunday to withhold nearly NIS 600 million ($184 million) from the Palestinian Authority to offset funds that it paid to terrorists and their families in the past year.
According to a report presented to the security cabinet by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and prepared by the Defense Ministry’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing, the Palestinian Authority transferred NIS 597 million ($182.82 million) in “indirect support for terror in 2020.”
“In light of this report, these funds will be frozen from the monthly payments that Israel transfers to the PA,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
This is not the first time the security cabinet has held back some tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority to penalize it for payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead attackers. In November, the cabinet voted to hold back approximately NIS 600 million out of a transfer of around NIS 2.4 billion over the so-called “pay to slay” payments.
Palestinian officials have indicated over the past year that they are considering reforming the controversial PA policy of paying salaries to Palestinians convicted by Israel of security offenses and terrorism. The prisoner issue has long hampered the PA’s diplomatic efforts in Washington, and Israel has repeatedly invoked the terror funding to criticize Ramallah in international forums.
Senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel in December that a fresh willingness to alter the way it pays stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, as well as the families of terrorists and others killed by Israelis, is aimed at laying the groundwork for the new diplomatic push.
The administration of US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has repeatedly urged the PA to halt its policy of “providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism.”
But just a month ago, PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly approved a payment of more than $40,000 to the family of Muhannad Halabi, who killed two Israelis in a 2015 stabbing attack in Jerusalem and was then shot dead by security forces.
In March, a Palestine Liberation Organization official told The Times of Israel that Ramallah may have paid as much as NIS 600 million ($181 million) in 2020 in salaries to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for security offenses and their families.