After much talk, Israel has decided that it would freeze NIS 500,000,000 (US$138,000,000) from the taxes and duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria as part of the Oslo Accords to offset a similar amount that the Palestinian government pays to terrorists. These payments are made to the families of terrorists who get killed in the course of performing terror acts and to the families of terrorists who get caught and spend time in Israeli prisons.
However, official Palestinian documents presented by the Israeli news resource ynet.co.il show that the half billion NIS amount covers only the latter category of terrorists, those who are serving in Israeli prisons. The former amount, that which is paid to the families of terrorists killed in the performance of terror acts whether in suicide missions or by Israeli security forces, is an astounding additional NIS 687 million (US$ 190 million) and it is not covered by the Israeli action. All sums mentioned here are the annual budgets of a special branch of the Palestinian government that is responsible for making these payments.
It would thus appear that the Israeli government’s action refers only to those funds paid out to the families of Arab prisoners, but not to the families of Arab terrorists who were killed in carrying out terror acts. Be it as it may, Israeli action drew a predictable sharp reaction from the Palestinian government. The office of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) released a statement in which it admits that the withheld funds will “hamper economic development”, but added that the Palestinians will not “trade away” their rights to use their money as they see fit. The president’s spokesperson added that Mahmoud Abbas is “determined” to never cease his support for the “our hero prisoners and martyrs”, adding that the Israeli action is a blatant breach of the Oslo Accords. Needless to say, the Palestinian spokesperson neglected to explain how paying people to perpetrate crimes against Israeli civilians or carry out attacks against the Israeli military is commensurate with the Oslo “peace” agreements.
Israeli move to freeze Palestinian funds should be understood against the background of the upcoming Israeli elections, as such a move is popular among the base of the governing Likud party. There can be little doubt that these funds will be released to the Palestinian authority after the new government is formed, since it is in Israel’s interest that the Palestinian Authority is sufficiently well funded to pay its military personnel who in many cases work alongside Israeli security forces to prevent terror acts that are carried out by the more extreme Palestinian factions. In the complex reality of the Arab – Israeli conflict, Israel is often faced with choosing which one of its many bitter enemies it would rather deal with to achieve the best possible outcome.