Palestinians decry Israeli move to freeze funds for prisoners’ families

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that the Palestinians, who view prisoners as national heroes, stop paying stipends to them and their families
  • Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people and that is a result of the decisions of President (Donald) Trump, who supports Israel

RAMALLAH: A top Palestinian official on Tuesday strongly denounced a new Israeli law that will freeze money transfers to the Palestinian Authority for paying stipends to Palestinians jailed by Israel, their families, and the families of those killed by Israeli forces.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the move threatened the existence of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israel enacted the law on Monday, which gives it the powers to withhold an amount of money based on what is paid to the prisoners and their families by the PA.

The 120-seat Parliament voted 87-15 in favor of the legislation that orders holding back part of the roughly $130 million in tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians each month under interim peace agreements.

A sponsor of the legislation says the PA pays around $330 million a year to prisoners and their families, amounting to 7 percent of its budget.
“This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancelation of the Palestinian Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat told AFP.
“Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people and that is a result of the decisions of President (Donald) Trump, who supports Israel.”

The PA headed by President Mahmoud Abbas has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank where Israel retains overall security control. Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas, bitter rival of Abbas’ more secular Fatah faction, controls the Gaza Strip
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that the Palestinians, who view prisoners as national heroes, stop paying stipends to them and their families.

Earlier this year, US lawmakers enacted legislation to sharply reduce the annual $300 million in US aid to the PA unless it took steps to stop making what lawmakers described as payments that reward violent crime.

The measure, known as the Taylor Force Act, was named after a 29-year-old American military veteran fatally stabbed by a Palestinian while visiting Israel in 2016.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter after the vote: “We promised to halt the stipend free-for-all for terrorists and we have made good on our promise. It’s over.

Every shekel that Abu Mazen (Abbas) will pay to terrorists and murderers will be automatically deducted from the Palestinian Authority’s budget.” According to Palestinian officials, the payments to inmates serving longer sentences for more serious offenses are larger than to others serving shorter sentences for lighter offenses.

Palestinian officials say that some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails.

Youssef Al-Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah, condemned Israel’s move saying the money belonged to the Palestinians and Israel had no right to hold it back and was violating signed agreements.

“This money belongs to the Palestinian people and this is legislation to steal the money of the prisoners and the martyrs who are symbols of freedom for us and they must not be harmed,” Al-Mahmoud was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Israel has withheld payments in the past, notably in response to the Palestinians’ 2011 admission to the UN cultural agency UNESCO as a full member.

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