Security cabinet said set to advance measures to prop up PA, but delay announcement

Ben Gvir, Netanyahu reportedly spar over timing of move, day after deadly terror attack; Dermer: We must keep our promise to the White House

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,, center, leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,, center, leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

The security cabinet debated a series of measures on Sunday meant to prop up the Palestinian Authority, although the government will reportedly only announce the moves at a later date due to sensitivities following a deadly terrorist attack in Tel Aviv a day earlier.

Channel 12 news reported that the long-planned measures — aimed in part at appeasing the US administration — will move ahead following the meeting, but will only be publicly announced later in the week in order to soften the blow in the wake of the attack, in which municipal security officer Chen Amir was shot dead.

The Kan public broadcaster, in contrast, reported that the measures were not approved and that the cabinet ministers did not vote on anything related to such moves — but are expected to later in the week.

The forum of senior ministers debated a raft of policies that were formulated by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Ghassan Alian.

The series of moves was said to include the cancellation of a decision to redirect the tax revenue Israel collects for the PA to families of Israeli terror victims.

Kan reported that far-right ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over a number of the measures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant shortly before the vote on the so-called reasonableness bill at the Knesset, July 24, 2023. At left is Itamar Ben Gvir. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben Gvir reportedly fumed over the timing of the measures, complaining that “you talk about [the Palestinian Authority] as terror supporters, why would you now grant them relief measures?” In response, Netanyahu reportedly sought to placate Ben Gvir by saying that it is in Israel’s best security interest “to stabilize” the situation and prevent the collapse of the PA.

According to Channel 13 news, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer told the cabinet that the measures to aid the PA are part of promises made to the US administration in the wake of recent settlement building in the West Bank. Netanyahu reportedly echoed that “promises must be kept — in particular to the Americans.”

Last month, the security cabinet voted in favor of a series of steps to bolster the PA, including the approval of a new industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, a move long supported by Israeli security officials, and the extension of hours at the Allenby border crossing with Jordan.

The cabinet was also said to have debated economic measures including easing the schedule for PA debt payments to Israel, and the restoration of VIP permits for senior PA officials. The permits were canceled by the government in January in response to the UN General Assembly’s approval of a resolution promoted by the Palestinians requesting that the International Court of Justice weigh in on the conflict.

At the same time, it is unclear whether there has been real movement to implement the policies, or whether they were mostly declaratory.

In January, Finance Minister Smotrich signed a decree to redirect NIS 139 million ($39.6 million) in PA tax revenue, as part of punitive measures against the PA’s international legal action against Israel.

Israel has made such deductions in the past, following 2018 legislation on the matter, but only partially upholds the policy, as officials are keenly aware that the PA is dangerously close to financial collapse.

The PA told Israel recently that it would not attend the next regional security summit if the cabinet rejects the proposal, Kan reported Sunday. Israel, the PA, Jordan, Egypt, and the US convened in two such summits in February and March, and have been discussing bringing the sides together again.

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