TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to begin cutting in a week’s time, begin cutting funds to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families.
“By the end of the week, the staff work necessary for implementing the law on deducting terrorists’ salaries will be completed. Next Sunday I will convene the Security Cabinet and we will approve the necessary decision to deduct the funds. Let nobody doubt, the funds will be deducted, at the start of next week,” he said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s comments came after his coalition partners pressured him to act in the wake of the horrific murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian man identified as Arafat Irfayia from the West Bank city of Hebron.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday called on Netanyahu to implement the Knesset bill to cut funds to the PA directly correlated to the amount paid out by the Palestinian government to convicted terrorists and their families.
“The terrorists are no longer afraid. At this moment [they] are preparing the next terrible murder of Jews,” Bennett said in a statement.
The so-called pay-for-slay scheme cost the PA, by its own admission, some NIS 1.2 billion ($330 million) in 2017 and 2018.
Around 35,000 families of Palestinians killed, wounded or serving sentences in Israeli prisons receive monthly remunerations of as much as $3,500. In 2018 the PA’s so-called “pay-for-slay” scheme amounted to approximately $330 million, which constitutes seven percent of the Palestinian Authority’s $5 billion budget.
Last week the PA warned Israel against deducting the funds, saying that if it did so the PA would not accept any of the funds – which amount to around $100 million – that Israel transfers to it under terms of the Oslo Accords.
The Yesh Atid party criticized Netanyahu’s comments for acting too late.
“It’s a shame it took [Netanyahu] ‘only’ 40 days [since the law came into force] and the despicable murder of Ori Ansbacher to decide to act,” the party’s statement said.
“If the prime minister… was focused on the lives of the public and not just on his own investigations, the law for the deduction of terrorists’ salaries, which we passed together with [Likud MK] Avi Dichter, would already have been implemented, and the motivation of potential terrorists would have been lessened. We hope this time Netanyahu will actually act, and not suffice with pronouncements,” the statement concluded.
Bennett said the move should have come sooner.
“This promise must be fulfilled as soon as possible,” Bennett tweeted. “But it should be noted that the law has been valid for more than a month and has not yet been implemented.”
The Knesset bill was passed in July following the passage of the Taylor Force Act in the US, which cut the lion’s share of US aid to the PA unless it decides to stop the payments to terrorists.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas in July vowed that his government will continue to pay salaries to terrorists and their families even if “we have only a penny left.”
“We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” he told representatives of an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners.