Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the Palestinian Authority with a tax revenue blockade, even though the taxes are collected from Palestinians. Here's what's at stake.
Tensions are mounting in Palestine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he's planning to implement a draconian law passed in July last year to stop the Palestinian Authority (PA) from supporting the families of political prisoners and those who have lost family members to Israel's military operations.
Amidst political wrangling between Netanyahu and his contender for the upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, Netanyahu criticised the welfare policy which is known as "pay for slay", describing the victims of state violence as terrorists. He said he plans to finish “necessary staff work... to implement the law” by next week, and create a system that robs Palestinians of social benefits despite paying taxes to the PA.
“Next Sunday, I will convene the security cabinet and we will make the necessary decision to offset the funds. The money will be deducted – no one should have any doubt about it,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Israel collects taxes on behalf of the PA in the occupied territories, and transfers the revenues generated from them to the PA, a protocol Tel Aviv is bound to follow according to the Oslo Accords. The taxes amount to an estimated $100 million per month.
“Any deduction from these revenues is nothing but a continuation of Israeli piracy against billions of dollars that Israel has stolen,” the PA said in a response to Netanyahu’s election-driven measure.
“This is also a clear and blatant violation of Israeli obligations in accordance with signed agreements, especially the Paris Economic Protocol,” the PA statement emphasised.
Netanyahu has been criticised for making hostile statements against Palestinians only to appease the far-right voter base.
In early July, the Knesset - the Israeli parliament - passed a law which forced the defence ministry to report to the security cabinet “welfare payments to terrorists and their families”. Then, according to the defence ministry report, Tel Aviv would deduct that amount from Palestinian revenues, the law stated.
While Israel portrays any anti-Israeli act as part of terrorism or anti-Semitism, both the PA and Palestinian public take pride in engaging in the resistance movement.
In 2017, Issa Karake, the former director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners' Affairs, strongly rejected the Israeli definition of terrorism, equating Palestinian deaths to achieving "martyrdom". He also stated that aiding Palestinian families and prisoners is a moral responsibility.
Netanyahu's proposal to cut the welfare scheme comes months after the US, Israel’s indispensable ally, ended much of its aid to Palestinians. In March 2018, the Trump administration brought in legislation called the Taylor Force Act, asking the PA to withdraw support from the troubled families who have fallen prey to the grinding conflict, or face major aid cuts.