Knesset bill to stop Palestinian terrorist payments moves forward

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill , despite an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to water down the legislation.

The bill is now expected to pass into law next Monday. It requires the government to deduct the amount the PA pays terrorists from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority.

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A version of the bill had already passed in committee three weeks ago, but then coalition chairman David Amsalem requested revisions on Netanyahu’s behalf. Netanyahu wanted the security cabinet to be able to bypass the bill and pay the PA at its own discretion based on diplomatic and other considerations.

But after it became clear there was no majority in the committee for that change, the only revision requested was to freeze the money confiscated from the PA, rather than use it to create a fund for victims of terrorism to pursue court judgments against the PA in which they could obtain a creditor’s lien on the PA’s funds. That change, which passed by a nine-to-one vote, was requested to help the bill comply with international law.

“Passing the bill into law on Monday will send a message that Israel will no longer be a pipeline for transferring money to terrorists,” said committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud), who cosponsored the bill with MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid).

While Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, who voted against the revision, said the change rendered the bill irrelevant and invited international pressure, Stern said keeping the money could be an incentive in the future for the PA to behave.

“Maintaining our principles and our stubbornness paid off,” Stern said. “What matters is that more families will not join those already mourning and that the PA will understand that supporting terror does not pay.”

Dichter, who was in Washington last week, told the committee that Congress voted to freeze money it gives to the PA, implementing the Taylor Force bill passed in Congress that was named after an American student and US army veteran who was murdered by a terrorist in Tel Aviv. Dichter said he had an emotional meeting in Washington with Stuart Force, Taylor’s father, whom he invited to come to Israel for the first time.

The bill was supposed to pass into law this week, but it was postponed at Amsalem’s request on Netanyahu’s behalf. Representatives of Palestinian Media Watch told the committee that during the week in which the legislation was postponed, the amount the PA gave terrorists and their families was more than 23 million shekels.

Amsalem said the current version of the bill was "important and just."