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Knesset approves law deducting funds to PA, Palestinian officials condemn approval

July 3, 2018 2:34 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2018 11:49 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Knesset’s General Assembly approved a bill into law on Monday to deduct funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority by the amount paid to Palestinian prisoners and their families.

The bipartisan law was passed by an overwhelming majority, supported by 87 members of the Knesset and opposed by 15 members only.

The official vote followed two hours of fierce debates, which started Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avi Dichter of the Likud, giving several examples of Palestinian “terrorists” who receive 1.2 billion shekels per year, which the PA distributes through monthly stipends.

According to Israeli news website Times of Israel, in the debate, Avi Dichter said that the law is meant to send a “moral and principled message” that Israel will no longer send funds to “terrorists” and for the PA to stop “encouraging terror.”

Jamal Zahalka, member of the Knesset, responded to Dichter’s examples by identifying him as the one responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians; Zahalka continued to identify other members of the Knesset as "murderers" and suggested that their salaries be deducted from rather than those of the Palestinians prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

Another Knesset member, Hanin Zoabi, expressed her objection to the law, describing it as a “stupid idea” and awaits its failure.

The Israeli Defense Ministry stated in a statement that Palestinian prisoners serving 20 to 30-year sentences in Israeli prisons are eligible for a lifetime of monthly stipends of 10,000 shekels ($2,772), prisoners who are sentenced to three to five-year sentences receive a monthly stipend of 2,000 shekels ($554), while prisoners who are married with children, living in Jerusalem or hold an Israeli citizenship receive additional aid.

Critics of this newly passed law have warned against the Palestinian Authority becoming bankrupt and leading to its economic collapse in the near future.

The passed law will deduct the Palestinian Authority transfers, which makes up 7% of its overall budget, estimated at 1.1 billion shekels ($ 300 million) annually, which was used to pay salaries and funding for Palestinian prisoners and to pay stipends to families of killed and wounded Palestinians; this deduction move will add to another deficit to the PA’s budget.

The Palestinian Presidency condemned the approval of the bill saying that important Palestinian decisions would be made to face the bill if it takes effect.

Official PA-owned news outlet Wafa reported that the spokesperson of the Palestinian President, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, stressed that the execution of this bill would have dangerous consequences.

Wafa site added that Palestinian member of the Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, blasted the approval of the law by saying it was "armed robbery."

Meanwhile, the Head of the Prisoners' Affairs Committee, Issa Qaraqe, told the Voice of Palestine radio station that "the deduction of money from tax revenues is piracy."

Member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Executive Committee (PLO), Bassam Salhi, said that "the PA will never succumb to Israeli blackmail" also referring to the law as piracy.

On Monday, Australia had also announced that it will end direct funding to the PA over concerns that the money would be used as stipends to Palestinian prisoners, and the United States had suspended aid funds to the Palestinian Authority last week. This move came two months after the US Congress passed the “Taylor Force Law," which will prevent the PA from paying monthly stipends to families of killed, wounded and imprisoned Palestinians.

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