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The clear effectiveness of Israel’s Anti ‘Pay-for-Slay’ law in creating pressure on the PA

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |

If anyone had any doubts regarding the effectiveness of Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” law in putting economic pressure on the Palestinian Authority, none other than the PA's Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, removed those doubts.

Referring to the alleged financial crisis that the PA is currently facing, the PA Prime Minister claimed that Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” law is the main reason for the PA's financial problems:

“The occupation is the primary cause of the financial crisis that we are facing, and the difficult situation that we are being subjected to is a result of Israel’s ongoing measures that steal our money and prevent us from being able to reach and take advantage of Area C (i.e., land under full Israeli administration according to the Oslo Accords), in addition to limitations that it is placing on the freedom of the movement of goods and people.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 1, 2022]

Shtayyeh's statement preceded an announcement by the PA Ministry of Finance, according to which, for the month of February, the PA will pay public service workers only 80% of their salary, provided that each employee receives at least 2,000 shekels:

“The [PA] Ministry of Finance announced that the February [2022] salaries of the [PA] public employees will be paid tomorrow, Monday [March 7, 2022] at a rate of 80% and at the very least 2,000 [Israeli] shekels instead of 1,650 shekels.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, March 6, 2022]

Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law was enacted by Israel’s parliament in 2018 by a huge majority. The goal of the law is to penalize the PA for its payments to terrorists.

The 2 sponsors of the bill MPs Avi Dichter and Elazar Stern each thanked PMW from the Knesset before and after the vote for supplying the "authentic data." Avi Dichter: "Palestinian Media Watch provided us with authentic data that enabled productive and professional deliberations, nuances that are very difficult to achieve without precise data."

According to the law, at the end of each year Israel’s Minister of Defense submits a report to the Security Cabinet detailing PA payments made “in connection with terrorism” – i.e., PA payments to imprisoned terrorists, released terrorists, wounded terrorists and families of dead terrorists (so-called “Martyrs”) - in the previous year. After the approval of the report by the Security Cabinet, the amount specified by the Minister of Defense is deducted from the tax money that Israel collects and transfers to the PA. In 2021, the PA's revenues from these taxes averaged 786 million shekels ($238 million) per month.

Since the enactment of the law, the Security Cabinet has approved the Minister of Defense's reports regarding PA payments to terrorists in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Pursuant to the reports, the Security Cabinet has ordered the freeze a total amount of 1,858,919,164 shekels ($562,538,495), of which an amount of 1,709,491,691 shekels ($517,319,366) was already meant to have been frozen. The balance of the sum is to be frozen in the next three months, in equal portions of 49,809,155 shekels ($15,073,042).

The words of Shtayyeh, the PA’s Prime Minister, prove that Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law is achieving its purpose - to create significant economic pressure on the PA in order to force the PA to stop its payments to terrorists - in a clear and unambiguous manner. The PA is in the midst of a growing economic crisis, and has to reconsider how to continue to reward terrorists, and at what price. The greater the economic pressure, the harder it will be for the PA to make the difficult decisions.

It is important to note that for the PA, the imprisoned and released terrorists are, for all intents and purposes, "employees" of the PA and therefore they also receive only 80% of the monthly payment that the PA pays them.

Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law fits well with the US Taylor Force Act, according to which the bulk of the US administration's assistance to the PA is conditional on the complete abolition of PA payments to terrorists.

Theoretically, Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law could be achieving its goals even faster, had it not been for the improper intervention of certain factors.

For example, for reasons that are not clear, Israel’s prime ministers did not ensure that the Defense Minister's reports were brought to a speedy discussion in the Security Cabinet. Ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up the discussion in the Security Cabinet about the 2019 report of the Defense Minister until November 2020. Current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has similarly refrained, now for more than two months, from bringing the report regarding PA payments to terrorists in 2021, to a discussion in the Security Cabinet.

Although the PA has worked intensively and in various ways to hide its payments, Palestinian Media Watch estimates that in 2021 the PA paid terrorists more than 840 million shekels ($254 million).

Israeli Minister of Finance, Avigdor Liberman, and the Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, are also making it difficult to realize the goals of the law. In late August 2021, Gantz met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. At the meeting, it was agreed, among other things, that Israel would assist the PA and provide the PA with an additional 500 million shekels. The Defense Minister's agreements with Abbas were implemented through the Ministry of Finance.

Following the meeting, and following a response by the Israeli Ministry of Finance to a request under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law, PMW exposed that in August and December 2021, the Ministry of Finance illegally refrained from freezing funds totaling 150,418,877 shekels, and in parallel, also transferred 349,581,123 shekels from the funds previously frozen. In this way, Israel credited the PA with the sum of 500 million shekels - exactly the amount that Defense Minister Gantz promised to transfer to the PA.

In these ways, Prime Minister Bennett, Defense Minister Gantz, and Finance Minister Liberman are, unfortunately reducing the impact of Israel’s Anti ‘Pay-for-Slay’ Law, and helping the PA to continue its payments, albeit reduced, to terrorists.