ANALYSIS: After Israel Withholds Funds to the PA What Will Happen Next?
Palestinian officials are threatening an explosion of violence, and Israelis fear they might be telling the truth
On Sunday, the Israeli security cabinet finally decided to implement a law passed by the Knesset in the summer of 2018 and announced it would deduct NIS 502,697,000 ($138 million) from the funds designated for transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the State of Israel.
The measure came in the wake of another horrific terror attack that took the life of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher, a Jewish woman from the village of Tekoa in Judea.
Ansbacher was raped and repeatedly stabbed in her upper torso after taking a walk in a forest near Ein Yael a nature reserve just outside southern Jerusalem.
The terrorist, 29-year-old Arafat Irfayia from Hebron, was arrested within 24 hours after the murder and almost immediately confessed the gruesome murder which shocked the Israeli nation and caused outrage across the political spectrum.
In reaction to the brutal murder, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced last week that the security cabinet would finally implement the law which was designed to put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s ‘pay to slay policy’.
The PA celebrated the murder on Ori – her family said she was “a holy soul” who cared for each person and living creature- with the re-broadcast of a song written by Jordanian singer Rami Shafiq which glorified terrorist acts against Israelis.
The song identified “Zionists” as the “enemy” and praised stone throwers while referring to many Israeli cities as part of the Palestinian enterprise.
“We have given them a taste of grief – a bone in the throat of the Zionists” according to the singer who pointed to a young child who he sang would be a “future terrorist and prisoner”.
The Palestinian Arabs are “a bone in the throat of the Zionists” according to Shafiq who, furthermore, promised Israel ten times more terror attacks than it had seen since the founding of the Jewish state.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh reacted furiously to the Israeli decision to implement the funding law and called it “piracy of the Palestinian people’s money while he warned the measure would have “serious repercussions”.
“We consider this arbitrary Israeli decision to be a one-sided blow to the signed agreements, including the Paris Protocols,” Rudeineh fumed referring to the Oslo accords and its side-deals.
The PA spokesman also defiantly announced that the PA wouldn’t change its policy of supporting “imprisoned heroes”, a reference to the Palestinian Arab terrorists who killed or tried to kill Israeli Jews.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah went a step further and claimed Israel’s decision was “part of a plan to destroy the National Authority and deny it the ability to continue to provide services and fulfill its commitments to its citizens.”
“Cutting the maqasa funds puts the Palestinian economy in danger and threatens our ability to pay employees’ salaries on time,” Hamdallah said referring in Arabic to the taxes and duties that Israel collect on behalf of the PA.
He added that the PA was ready “for all scenarios if the Israeli government actually implements its threats.”
Yisrael Katz, Israel’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, called the withholding of the funds a” needed and moral decision”, however.
“This is a moral decision. The family of Ori Ansbacher’s murderer is going to receive money from Abu Mazen (PA leader Mahmoud Abbas) for the rest of its life. This is something that is not up for interpretation. This is support and tailwind for terror,” Katz told Israel KAN radio.
The funds which Israel collects on behalf of the PA are mostly Valued Added Tax (VAT) and customs duties on imported goods which are shipped to Israeli ports and then transferred to the autonomous Palestinian territories.
The $138 million will be deducted incrementally over a 12-month period according to Israeli media.
Until now, the government in Jerusalem was reluctant to implement the law because of warnings by the Israeli security establishment.
Israeli military and security officials have repeatedly warned the measure would further destabilize the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as well as Gaza where the PA used to fund the salaries of thousands of civil servants.
PA leader Abbas recently ordered a sharp cut in the salaries of civil workers in Gaza after reconciliation talks with Hamas broke down over the organization’s refusal to disarm its military wing Izz-a-Din al-Qassam.
Israel’s decision to cut off the money flow to the PA will almost surely lead to a deterioration in the already dire situation in Gaza and could spark an increase in terror attacks in Judea and Samaria.
Hamas last week escalated the so-called “Great March of Return”, the initially weekly violent protest along the border with Israel in Gaza which has now become a daily occurrence.
This resulted on Sunday in 19 wounded Palestinian Arabs who threw explosive devices, firebombs and stones at IDF soldiers along the Gazan border.
One IDF soldier was moderated wounded after an improvised explosive device hit him in the face.
The Sunni Islamist terror organization also grabbed control over some of the border crossings between Gaza, Egypt, and Israel.
Last week, Hamas members caused the PA staff at the Keren Shalom border crossing to abandon their control post.
As a result, Hamas now fully controls the flow of goods coming from Israel at the border crossing.
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, could now make good on its promise to halt security cooperation with Israeli security forces in Judea and Samaria.
If this happens Hamas will further increase its attempts to destabilize the PA-controlled areas and even try to grab power from the PA just as it did in 2007 when Izz-a-Din al-Qassam violently expelled the PA from Gaza.
Since the summer of 2018, Hamas has been trying to ignite the PA-controlled areas and is using sleeper cells to organize terror attacks on Jewish Israeli citizens.
The terror organization re-introduced shooting attacks and has been caught planning large scale terror attacks in Israel over the so-called Green Line, the 1948 Armistice Line.