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Israel blocks funds collected from Palestinians

Israel is all set to withhold $180 million in Palestinian funds. It says Palestinians are giving away this to militants.

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Israel will withhold $180 million in tax revenue it collect last year on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, or about 7% of the PA’s total tax revenue, to offset stipends paid to militants and their families, the Israeli cabinet said on Sunday.

Under a 2018 law, Israel calculates each year how much it believes the Palestinian Authority has paid in stipends to militants, and deducts that amount from the taxes it has collected on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Taxes collected by Israel form about half of the income of the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

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Israel calls stipends for militants and their families a “pay for slay” policy that encourages violence. Palestinians hail their jailed brethren as heroes in a struggle for an independent state and their families as deserving of support.

Qadri Abu Baker, head of prisoners affairs in the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the Israeli measure a crime of “terror and piracy.”

Terror stipends

Ramallah may have paid as much as NIS 600 million ($181 million) in 2020 in salaries to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for security offenses — including terrorism — and their families, a Palestine Liberation Organization official said in March.

“We pay around NIS 50 million ($15 million) per month in salaries,” PLO Commissioner for Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr said in a phone call with The Times of Israel.

Ramallah has a longstanding policy of compensating Palestinians jailed by Israel for security offenses, as well as those wounded or killed by Israeli forces — including those killed while committing violent terror attacks.

Israel has long sought to clamp down on the practice, which it says encourages terror. As required by a 2018 law, Israel deducts the estimated cost of the stipends from tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority every month.

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Abu Bakr did not immediately provide a precise figure for 2020 as a whole but agreed when The Times of Israel suggested an estimate of NIS 600 million ($181 million) for the past year, based on the monthly number he’d provided. “Yes, that’s right,” he said.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk

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