Expert: Israel’s penalising of PA for it ‘Pay to Slay’ policy will have limited effect

February 5, 2019 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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New Israeli legislation that withholds tax transfers from Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to offset salaries paid by Ramallah to terrorists or their families will take effect in the coming days.

Car ramming at Samaria

The law aims to penalize the PA for its practice, dubbed “pay to slay,” of providing salaries to Arabs who commit acts of terrorism against Jews. The stipends are paid out in varying amounts in accordance with the crime and sentence; the more violent and lethal the attack, the higher the monthly stipend.

“The PA turned itself into a factory that employs murderers [of] Jews mostly, but also Muslims, Christians, Druze, Circassians and others, including tourists,” said Member of Knesset (MK) Avi Dichter, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, when it passed into law in July 2018.

Israel transfers NIS 8.5 billion (more than $2.4 billion) in tax payments to the PA annually. The PA’s budget in 2018 stood at NIS 18.5 billion ($5.2 billion). The PA has dedicated a significant portion of its budget, some seven percent, to incentivize the murder of Jews through stipends paid to terrorists and their families.

In its 2018 budget, the PA increased its funding of the payments and allocated $360 million for the Prisoners and Martyrs fund, which disperses payment to imprisoned terrorists, released terrorists and the families of dead terrorists.

Israel’s new legislation determines that at the end of each year, the defense minister will draft a report on the funds the PA pays terrorists. The financial penalty will be determined by the report.

MK Elazar Stern, another co-sponsor of the law, stated Monday that he “has no doubt that the law will reduce terrorism and the harming of the lives of Israelis, who would have otherwise joined the circle of painful bereavement.”

“The main question I have come across since the passing of the law is how no one has thought of it before, and how have we come to terms with this hallucinatory reality for so many years?” he added, expressing hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will not delay the implementation of the law.”

The law mandates the deduction with no options for flexibility and leaves no room for the government to make a new decision each year on whether or not to make the deduction, based on diplomatic and other considerations.

The PA leadership has vowed to proceed with its policy of paying terrorists and supporting their families, “to their last penny,” as one official stated after the Israeli bill was voted into law.

The sum that stands to be deducted stands at hundreds of millions of shekels, a significant part of the PA’s budget.

However, Professor Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), told TPS that the move would have limited sway on the PA’s policies.

A significant cut to the PA’s budget would hinder its conduct, but as funds are fungible, the PA will allocate funding from another budget to pay out the terrorists’ stipends, and another segment of the population or another project will bear the brunt.

He quipped that the PA officials who steal “will not suffer in any case.”

He noted that in general, external financial sanctions have limited power in changing a regime’s policy, pointing to Iran’s conduct as an example of a country that is facing strict international sanctions but is refusing to relent in its support of global terrorism or its illicit nuclear program.

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