משה פרל
Moshe Perl
Children in a Palestinian refugee camp near Jerusalem

Annexation, corruption and Israel's looming money troubles

Opinion: Why would international lenders agree to extend credit to a government already headed by a man on trial for bribery and fraud when new security threats are thrown into the mix by one-sided moves in West Bank?

Moshe Perl |
Published: 06.19.20 , 23:28
The debate in Israel over the financial cost of a one-sided move to annex parts of the West Bank is missing an important factor that might exact a huge price.
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  • Supporters of annexation believe its economic cost to Israel - and what they claim would be the addition of just tens of thousands of Palestinians - would be negligible.
    Opponents, however, fear annexation would require the inclusion of more than two million Palestinians, who would need Israel to provide them with stipends such as child benefits, maternity pay, unemployment allowances and more. The price tag for this would certainly run into the billions of shekels each year.
    Children in a Palestinian refugee camp near Jerusalem Children in a Palestinian refugee camp near Jerusalem
    Children in a Palestinian refugee camp near Jerusalem
    (Photo: Mohammed Shinawi)
    But Israel's biggest problem would arise should it attempt to take a loan to pay for the annexation.
    Israel has a complicated relationship in the international arena. Many of its European allies are displeased with Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.
    Furthermore, the United Nations views these policies with disdain and Israel can no longer expect unconditional support from the younger generation of American voters. In addition, one can easily see modern examples of anti-Semitism freely expressed on social media.
    A rally in London in support of the boycott movement against Israel A rally in London in support of the boycott movement against Israel
    A rally in London in support of the boycott movement against Israel
    (Photo: citizenside.com)
    Israel has in previous years received a generous line of credit from international financial institutions. The government has been able to borrow the funds it has needed with loans even extending to 100 years, because of the faith in our ability to repay both capital and interest.
    As recently as 20 years ago, Israel would have had to assure lenders that its security situation would not interfere in its ability to make repayments. Its precarious position in the Mideast, surrounded by hostile neighbors and a regional power striving for nuclear capabilities, would have necessitated endless assurances.
    But that is now all in the past. Israel's list of enemies and threats has shrunk and where it once had to alleviate security concerns, it is now asked about corruption.
    Lenders worry they are extending lines of credit to a country in which a former president, a former prime minister and other high-ranking government officials have all been jailed.
    They wonder how a minister charged with corruption can declare his innocence and at the same time claim immunity from prosecution, as in the case of Likud MK Haim Katz, who dodged a corruption trial after the Knesset granted him immunity.
    נתניהו באולם בית המשפטנתניהו באולם בית המשפט
    Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of his criminal trial at Jerusalem District Court last month
    (Photo: Amit Shabi)
    These lenders question the wisdom of providing credit to a government headed by a man being tried for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
    Thus far, the balance is still in Israel's favor with the reduction of security risks outweighing concerns over Israeli politicians' ability to abide by the rule of law, but that balance could shift when annexation is thrown into the mix.
    At a time when Israel needs available funds to reverse the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the reemergence of security threats in the West Bank is the last thing this country needs.
    EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret and President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret and President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem
    EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret and President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: EU Delegation to Israel)
    Imagine the European pensioners whose funds Israel is currently seeking, should a new wave of violence break out in the West Bank.
    Would they be willing to lend Israel their money? What interest might they demand to do so? What risks would they be factoring into their decisions?
    Therein lies the real cost of unilateral annexation.

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