Senior state officials have revealed that the Palestinian Authority submitted an official request to the Bank of Israel recently to increase its volume of deposits in Israeli banks to NIS 2 billion (about $520 million).
The request raised a few eyebrows in the central bank and among other officials, who wondered where could the Palestinians have gotten so much money while they complain of the grim financial situation in the West Bank?
The Bank of Israel asked the Palestinians, through a third party, for clarifications on their financial activity – their credit card usage volume, bank accounts that have been opened, etc – but failed to receive clear answers.
The Palestinian request does not match the deficit in the balance of trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which should have led to a demand for Israeli shekels in the West Bank rather than to a surplus of shekels.
The request is now being looked into by state and security officials. Senior Bank of Israel officials suspect that this part of the activity of Israeli Arab crime families, which use Palestinians to launder money.
In light of the probe, which is being coordinated with international elements, Israel has so far avoided accepting the Palestinian request.
The request comes on the backdrop of a serious economic distress in the PA. Recent surveys have cited the grim economic situation as the cause for the drop in the popularity of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.