The Knesset approved in its first reading on Monday afternoon a bill proposal to deduct the funds the Palestinian Authority pays terrorists and their families from the tax money Israel collects on behalf of the PA.
The proposal cleared the first hurdle in the legislative process with 55 MKs voting in favor and 14 voting against.
The bill seeks to give the Security Cabinet the authority to order a freeze of the transfer of money to the Palestinians as well as outline clear instructions on what to do with the funds deducted.
The legislative proposal concerns "money paid to those defined as terror activists or the families of terrorists who were wounded or killed, or money paid to prisoners or other detainees for carrying out or attempting to carry out an offense that undermines state security or public safety, or to their families, as a reward for the terror attacks they carried out."
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan presented the bill to the Knesset ahead of the vote. "Today, the State of Israel says 'no more.' We will fight terrorists not just by catching them and bringing them to justice, but even after they have been jailed. We will continue fighting them and their families and those who fund them and show zero tolerance to terrorism," he said.
According to data collected by the defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority pays over NIS 1 billion a year to terrorists and their families.
"Imagine how many kindergartens and schools could've been built with this money. Instead of investing in education and health, instead of taking care of the Gaza residents, the PA encourages terrorism," Ben-Dahan went on to say.
Under the proposed legislation, the defense minister will present the Cabinet every year with a report on the total amount of terror-related money paid by the PA. The total sum detailed in the report would be deducted from the money being transferred to the PA.
The deducted money, according to the bill proposal, would be put in a special fund created for this purpose and used—subject to approval from the defense minister—to carry out Israeli court verdicts against the PA or against terrorists; to pay compensation to terror victims; and to carry out projects as part the fight against terrorism and the funding of terrorism.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman came out in support of the bill, saying, "We're pulling the plug on Abbas."
Lieberman promised to work to advance the law in second and third reading as soon as possible. "This insanity, in which we transfer money to the Palestinian Authority, which uses it to encourage terrorism against us, will be stopped," he said.
The legislation received support from the opposition as well. Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli called it a "just, moral and right law."
"We support a diplomatic agreement with all of our hearts, but this is about the fact over seven percent of the PA's budget goes to supporting terrorists," he said. "This bill is necessary for anyone who supports the security of the State of Israel."
MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), who proposed a similar private bill, charged that "Paying money to people who murdered women and children is the encouragement of murder. The fact children in the PA know that if they murder Jewish children, they and their families would receive money—is a daily encouragement of murder. Anyone who wants peace should support this bill. As long as the Palestinians know that those who murder more Jews get more money, there will be no peace."
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi opposed the legislation, saying "This method of squeezing out the money of the Palestinian people that is held by the Treasury, which is supposed to be a channel to transfer the funds, is extortion done by the occupation. Whether it's through the Electricity Company or Palestinian prisoners. If snipers are allowed to open fire at children, it's allowed to steal the Palestinians' money. All of these methods didn't help in the past and won't help now."