Elections are over; now Israelis notice the Palestinian Authority is collapsing
Analysis: The outgoing government voted to withhold tax revenues from the Palestinians, in the sum of stipends to families of convicted or killed terrorists; pay cuts to security forces bring frustration; Hamas is making the most of it and in Israel – some are looking for a way out.
Last week, UN envoy to the Mideast Nikolay Mladenov issued his report on the situation in the Palestinian Authority, waring the financial crisis it is in, endangers West Bank.
Looking at what may lay ahead, requires an understanding of how we've gotten to where we are now.
In July 2018 the Knesset passed a law to withhold funds to the PA, from their legitimate tax income, collected by Israel. The amount being the exact sum spent on support to families of terrorists.
The law states that the Israeli minister of defense will report the exact amount that the PA payed out to these families, the previous year, and that amount will be deducted from the monthly transfer of funds. But since the beginning of 2019, no one in Israel was in any rush to enforce the law, knowing it would bring about the financial ruin of the PA.
So, what has happened since? In February of this year, A Palestinian murdered 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher and the right wing began asking why the law was not being applied.
The combination of pressure from his right and the upcoming elections pushed Netanyahu to ratifying the law by the cabinet.
Israel transfers an average of NIS600,000,000 ($166 million) each month, money collected as taxes for the PA. Since the law has been ratified, the amount withheld, will be approx. $11.5 million a month.
In response, Palestinian president Abu Abbas announced he will refuse to accept any of the tax revenue, if part of it is withheld, and meanwhile the PA will continue supporting the families as they have been doing, financial repercussions be what they may.
At the same time $ 1 billion in US aid previously given the PA was also stopped.
It appears Abbas has decided to burn down the house, in the hopes, Israel will re-think its position. But the elections were taking place, and no one was paying attention. No one but the security forces, who saw clearly where this fire would spread but still stayed silent. Who wouldn't? the entire election campaign was about showing the Palestinians who's boss.
After the elections, reality came knocking. Urgent meetings are being held at the highest levels. But is it too late.?
For the time being NIS1.2 billion ($330,000,000) are waiting in the finance ministry in Jerusalem. This months' payment will be added next week, The holy month of Ramadan is expected to compound the pressure on the PA.
The cost is felt by PA employees among them 30,000 security personnel entrusted with maintaining stability and calm in the West Bank in coordination with their Israeli counterparts. They have been receiving half of their salaries for the past three months. Their frustration is clear, and Hamas is quick to take advantage increasing their efforts to enlist security forces in exchange for a generous payment.
The trump peace plan will be rolled out in less than two months. Ramallah has already made clear it will be rejected. This too will contribute to instability in area.
Israeli officials, so far, are unwilling to back down. Abbas, while continuing globe trotting in his private jet, has cut all PA salaries in half.
The Arab league has pledged support in the sum of $100 million each month. So far only pledges were received.
Good luck to all.