Paying employees and caring for the health of the citizens has no priority for P.A President Abbas. He is willing to create a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank as long as it encourages the murder of Jews.
In February, Israel finally decided that it would implement the law that was passed last year allowing Israel to withhold and freeze funds used by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay Arab terrorists, and their families, monthly stipends as a reward for committing terrorism. Israel did so by deciding to deduct $138 million from taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. The sum, according to Israel Hayom, comprises about 5 % of the PA’s revenues.
“The law will make it clear to the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] – it [terrorism] doesn’t pay!” said Likud MK Avi Dichter about the decision in February.
Mahmoud Abbas appears to think otherwise. As someone who does not depend on voters to remain in power — he is currently in the fourteenth year of the four-year term he was elected to in 2005 — he evidently has no need to even pretend that he cares about the welfare of the citizens of the PA. His response to Israel’s decision to withhold funds, therefore, was a well-calculated tantrum: He announced that the PA will refuse to receive any of the taxes collected by Israel. In the words of the PA Minister of Finance:
“There is an official decision… not to accept the tax money if even a single penny is missing from it.”
According to Palestinian Media Watch, the taxes that Israel collects and transfers to the PA amount to, on average, 670 million shekels/month ($187 million). Israel’s monthly deduction amounts to $ 41 million.
By refusing to receive any of the PA’s tax funds, the PA leadership is not only throwing what looks like the temper tantrum of a spoiled toddler. It is cynically aiming at creating a major financial crisis in the PA, which is likely, in due course, to lead to a humanitarian crisis.
The signs are all there: The PA has already announced pay cuts for its civil servants, while salaries to imprisoned terrorists and released terrorists, as well as the allowances to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists will be paid in full:
“…The burden of sacrifice and the burden of compromise falls on the top salaries… At the beginning of the month [March 2019]… the salaries were transferred in full to the prisoners, the wounded, and the Martyrs according to the orders of His Honor President [Abbas]. This is one of the national principles which no force on earth can make us deviate from”, said PA Minister of Finance and Planning Shukri Bishara. “The salaries of the families of the Martyrs (Shahids) and the prisoners are a taboo that must not be touched. We are prepared to sacrifice our salaries, and we will not touch a single penny of the salaries of our Martyrs and our wounded and prisoner heroes”, added PA Deputy Prime Minister and Fatah Commissioner of Information Nabil Abu Rudeina.
That is not all. The PA has also announced that it will no longer permit its citizens to travel for medical treatment in Israel for which the PA pays approximately $100 million per year. According to Palestinian Media Watch, in 2015, the last year for which there are public records, over 102,000 PA citizens were granted permits to enter Israel for treatment, including over 20,000 who received medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. “The decision is political par excellence, and comes in response to Israel deducting sums from the money that it collects for us”, said PA Ministry of Health Spokesman Osama Al-Najjar.
In other words, paying employees and caring for the health of the citizens has no priority. What matters is terrorism – the continued encouragement and reward of the killing of Jews in Israel.
Abbas is doing two things: first, he is telling Israel, and his own citizens, that he is not going to budge when it comes to the raison d’etre of his regime, which is terrorism, not the well-being of his people. This is an excellent opportunity for the world to learn the basics of what Abbas and his cohorts are all about, but Abbas knows from experience that outside of Israel, nothing he does is ever seen for what it is. Abbas knows from experience that he can do no wrong in the eyes of the international community, which continues to fund him despite his regime’s constant incitement to terror, his despotism, his blatant human rights abuses, the lack of rule of law etc. His regime is, after all, one of the most lavishly funded terrorist regimes in the world. Second, Abbas is taking this opportunity to create a humanitarian crisis that will garner support internationally – especially after he turns down Trump’s peace plan, as he is expected to do – and which he can then use to show the world how much his people is suffering. Even though the crisis is of his own making, Abbas knows that the world will buy any lie that he peddles. It always has.
What can Israel do about this cynically self-inflicted crisis, which is being created by the PA out of a desire to prioritize the murder of Jews above all — other than exposing the potential crisis for the fraud that it is?
Israel should use this situation to create, or rather widen, the existing rift between the PA regime and its citizens. Citizens in the PA do not enjoy freedom – least of all political and religious freedom – nor a high standard of living and the regime’s latest move serves as an excellent example of the blatant disregard, bordering on contempt, which the PA leadership has for its own people. Israel should communicate to the citizens of the PA that the regime that rules them — on a mandate that expired a decade ago — does not have its best interests at heart, but only peddles in death and destruction. Not only the death and destruction of Israelis but of its own citizens. It might be a welcome opportunity to point out to those citizens that choosing a different path than that of Abbas — more terrorism, more death — leads to poverty and overall decline and that it is up to them to try to forge a different path.
The results of such Israeli communications will not be impressive at first. It is almost impossible to undo decades of terrorist indoctrination. But the situation presents itself as a welcome opportunity to at least begin. It is up to Israel to make the best of that opportunity.
Judith Bergman is a columnist and political analyst and a fellow with the Gatestone Institute.