The security cabinet has decided to examine options for preventing the Palestinian Authority from transferring funds to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
The Palestinian Authority's Ministry for Prisoners' Affairs gives stipends totaling 20 million shekels a month to Palestinian prisoners. The stipends vary between 1,400 shekels for a prisoner sentenced to three years to 12,000 shekels for a 30 year sentence. Released prisoners are eligible for stipends varying between 5,000 for less than three-years in prison and 87,000 shekels for serving over 30 years.
In recent years, Israel has been claiming that the funds given by by foreign governments to the Palestinian Authority, earmarked for building up the Authority's institutions, are eventually allocated for these stipends. Several countries, including Britain and Norway, have changed the relevant procedures to make sure their donations are not transferred to prisoners.
After the kidnapping of three Israeli teens about two weeks ago and the following decision to level sanctions against Hamas members imprisoned in Israel, several lawmakers have suggested Israel take action against the stipends. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Ze'ev Elkin have claimed the stipends constitute an incentive for impoverished Palestinians to perform attacks against Israel.
However, stopping these funds is complicated, and nearly impossible, as the stipends are passed directly from the Authority to the prisoners' bank accounts in Palestinian banks, without any Israeli intervention.
In Wednesday's discussion, officials from the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories and the Shin Bet suggested Israel deduct the stipends from the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority. Another suggestion was to pursue legal action against the Palestinian banks involved for funding terrorism.
These two suggestions are complicated for both legal and political reasons. For instance, deducting the stipends from Palestinian tax revenue will not actually stop the stipends, but may raise international condemnation and accusations that Israel is robbing the Authority.
Another suggestion raised in the cabinet meeting was to try and act jointly with international organizations and Western states to level sanctions against the Palestinian Authority and the banks. Though this route may take a long time before it bears fruit, it seems like the only practical option for now.
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