Withholding millions of AP, Smotrich says he has “no interest” in its existence

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich signed a decree on Sunday to block NIS 139 million ($39.6 million) in Palestinian Authority tax revenue and redirect it to families of terror victims, as part of punitive measures against the international legal action of the Palestinian Authority against Israel, decided upon by the Government.

During a press conference, Smotrich was asked if he was concerned that the move could lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, and he replied: “As long as the Palestinian Authority promotes terror and is an enemy, I have no interest in its continuing to exist.” . ”

Smotrich praised a years-long campaign to compensate regular Palestinian Authority payments to convicted terrorists and the families of dead Palestinian attackers, which Israel and other critics say provide a direct incentive for terrorism, calling it a “just fight… not just to provide retroactive justice.” but also as a deterrent.”

Israel has made such deductions in the past, following 2018 legislation on the subject, but only partially upholds the policy, as officials are well aware that the Palestinian Authority is perilously close to financial collapse.

“There is no comfort for the families of those killed, but there is justice,” Smotrich said.

The move is one of steps approved by the government on Friday to penalize Palestinians in retaliation for their pressure for the United Nations’ highest judicial body to give its opinion on Israel’s control of the West Bank. The decision highlights the hard line the new government is taking towards the Palestinians, at a time of escalating violence in the West Bank and with peace talks a distant memory.

Illustrative: Police and security personnel at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying reparations to those convicted of carrying out terror attacks and to the families of those killed in the attacks, often referred to by some Israeli officials as a pay-to-kill policy, has been defended by Palestinian leaders, who describe them as a form of social welfare and necessary compensation for victims of Israel’s military justice system in the West Bank.

Smotrich told reporters on Sunday that as long as the Palestinian Authority “operates in accordance with the agreements, deals with civilian life and thwarts terrorist activities in cooperation with Israel’s security establishment, then of course it is possible to have relations.” with authority.

“This is on the condition that the authority does not resort to terror,” he added.

Abie Moses, head of the National Organization for Victims of Terrorism, hailed the “important decision” but added that it was just a first step among various demands by those injured in the attacks.

“The inauguration of a new Knesset is an opportunity to repair the long-standing neglect of the victims of enemy hostilities and to allocate the necessary resources to care for the rights of thousands who have lost their loved ones, who are struggling to survive and try to recover. keep living,” he said.

Lawyer Avi Segal of the Israeli legal advocacy group Shurat HaDin thanked Smotrich and the government for the decision, adding that “there is empirical research” that cutting off funding was crucial to preventing terrorism.

Ron Alon, a relative of terror victims who were killed in a 2002 Jerusalem attack, called the move “a historic day,” echoing Smotrich’s words about bringing justice to terror victims and potentially deterring future aggressors.

Other punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority include the revocation of travel permits for senior Palestinian officials allowing them to travel easily in and out of the West Bank, unlike ordinary Palestinians, and a freeze on Palestinian construction in parts of the West Bank.

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