Members of the Fatah Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the village of Bani Naem, east of Hebron. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israel will begin transferring 800 million shekels to the PA, but both Israeli and Palestinian petitioners say the workers, for whom the funds are intended, will never see the money, which will instead support terror. 

By Sheri Oz

Israel was scheduled to transfer a portion of an 800-million-shekel loan to the Palestinian Authority (PA) Sunday, but it was held up, apparently due to two petitions that were submitted to the Supreme Court demanding that the funds not be sent.

The loan was described as a measure to help the PA make up for losses incurred during the coronavirus lockdown and will be taken from the emergency budget set aside to help Israel cope with the fallout from the pandemic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) approved this special emergency funding; Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (Yamina) opposed.

Mohammad Massad, representing the Palestinian Workers’ Organization, submitted a petition asking the State of Israel to respect the basic human rights of Palestinian workers and not let the PA leadership embezzle the funds.

Mohammad Massad

Mohammad Massad, representing the Palestinian Workers’ Organization, submitted a petition to the State of Israel not to let the PA leadership embezzle the funds. (Facebook)

Social benefits and taxes are deducted at source from the salaries of Palestinian employees working in Israel and Area C of Judea & Samaria. Reimbursements are then transferred to the PA, which is supposed to pass these on to the workers. However, the petition states:

“In fact, the funds are transferred to a government that was not even elected, that controls the population and mistreats them, that is corrupt, openly supports terrorism, does with the funds whatever they want and does not take care of the rights of the workers, farmers, business people, their families and other citizens in accordance with agreements upon which they are signatories.”

The petition argues that Israel maintains the appearance of taking care of the rights of those employed under her auspices. However, by knowingly transferring funds to the PA, an illegitimate and corrupt government, the state is, in fact, shirking its responsibility toward these workers, Massad says, noting that Palestinian employees are then unable to access their pensions, child support, unemployment benefits and more.

The petition points to a time in the future when the current Palestinian “dictatorial government” will be replaced by a government elected by the people. When that happens, the petition continues, “…the elected government will sue the State of Israel for the funds that were transferred to the unelected government and after it will be proven that these funds disappeared by means of corruption and that the bulk of the funds were never passed on to the residents, then the residents will have the right to demand that Israel pay them what they have owing to them.”

Massad is requesting that the funds continue to be held by Israel until a system is devised for depositing the money directly into the employee accounts and that the court appoint a committee to oversee this.

The Palestinian Workers’ Organization was founded only two weeks ago and already has 40,000 members.

Massad, 45, was born in Jenin. A former terrorist who spent time in an Israeli jail, he has changed his ways and saved the life an IDF soldier. Now an Israeli citizen and resident of Haifa, he is the public face for Palestinian workers who are afraid to openly oppose the PA.

Bereaved Israeli Families, Activists Join Outcry

Israeli attorney Itzik Bam prepared a second petition presented to the Supreme Court on behalf of two NGOs – the Choosing Life Forum, which is composed of bereaved families, and the Lavi organization for Citizens’ Rights and Proper Administration. According to this petition, the loan serves as a means by which the PA can circumvent the required deduction of pay-for-slay salaries and there is little likelihood it will be repaid. In addition, it argues that changing the structure of the budget to allow such a payment requires government approval via accepted procedures, something that apparently did not happen in this case.

Bam told United with Israel that he sees little chance of the petition succeeding.

“The respondents argued that the issue is a political one and the Supreme Court will not want to interfere in this. But in their defense, the respondents provided a lot of details about the arrangement that were not known before. Therefore, even if the petition is unsuccessful, we gained transparency.”

For the  Choosing Life Forum, this would not be enough:

“It is incomprehensible that when hundreds of thousands of Israeli families and businesses are on verge of collapse, the Israeli government chooses to transfer 800 million shekels to the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority … This means that the .. Israeli taxpayer is paying the salaries of the murderers of our children.”

The NGO Lavi added:

“Transferring a billion shekels to the Palestinian Authority in this underhanded opportunistic fashion shows contempt for the recently passed Law for Deduction of Terrorist Salaries and toward families affected by terrorism.”