Israel asks to defund Palestinians one day, funds later: analysis

Israel, on Tuesday, told donors to the Palestinian cause around the world that they are part of the problem; then on Wednesday, Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej plans to tell donor countries to increase their contributions to the Palestinians.

Remarks by UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan spoke out against UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, as it began its international fundraising conference, sponsored by Sweden and Jordan, in Brussels. And Frej is expected to make his appeal at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which gives directly to the Palestinian Authority, the donor meeting in Oslo the next day.

“In its current structure, UNRWA is part of the problem and only furthers and perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Erdan said in a statement. “Every country that contributes funds to UNRWA before the agency undergoes fundamental reform and will stop its incitement against Israel and identification with Hamas will only make the situation worse.”

Israel’s problems with UNRWA are innumerable. The central theme is that UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem by imparting that status to descendants of the 1948 War of Independence, defining “refugee” differently for Palestinians than in other conflicts.

The material problem is that Hamas has repeatedly used UNRWA facilities to launch rockets at Israel and teaches anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement in its schools, among other evils. Earlier this year, UN security prevented Erdan from displaying a Facebook post of a UNRWA teacher glorifying Hitler.

A Palestinian teacher leads a class for students at a UNRWA-run school that reopened after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were eased, in al-Fari’ah refugee camp in the West Bank on 12 April 2021 (credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA / REUTERS)

UNRWA has said it urgently needs more funds. In a recent meeting with UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini, Erdan said by phone on Tuesday that he challenged the claim that the organization is bankrupt, noting that the United States is donating $ 325 million. Lazzarini responded that while that is true, donations from Arab states have decreased. For example, the United Arab Emirates stopped contributing to UNRWA, having donated $ 50 million, the ambassador said.

“I told Lazzarini that he should ask himself why the Arab countries stopped donating and realize that he is not the solution; he’s the problem, ”Erdan said. “He is helping the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the enemies of peace. He didn’t have an answer. “

In the statement issued by Erdan, he said that Israel “supports the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need, but UNRWA has become a body that meets the delusional demand of the Palestinians to ‘go back.’

Frej’s planned appeal to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee appears to be in line with Erdan’s statement. He plans to ask donor countries to restore payments and invest in water and health projects.

Donations to the Palestinians have dropped by 85% in the past 13 years, and economic instability has plagued the Palestinian Authority for much of that time. The situation not only hurts Palestinians, it impacts Israel: The Palestinian Authority’s inability to pay teachers, for example, triggered a wave of violence against Israelis in 2016. And the Palestinian Authority currently runs a deficit of $ 1.36 billion that you can make you unable to pay public officials. in the West Bank.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority, like UNRWA, teaches anti-Semitism and incitement to terrorism in its schools.

Even worse than that is “murder pay”, the monthly payments from the Palestinian Authority to terrorists in prison and the families of terrorists killed on the spot. Stipends increase with terrorists’ prison terms, so they are paid more if they kill, rather than maim, their victims. The Palestinian Authority claims it is a social assistance program, but terrorists and their families receive stipends well above the average in the West Bank. The World Bank has said that “the program is clearly not targeting the poorest households. The level of resources dedicated to the Fund for Martyrs and Wounded does not seem justified from a welfare or fiscal perspective ”.

Israel has a law on the books that requires the government to deduct the amount that the Palestinian Authority pays to terrorists from the taxes and duties that Jerusalem collects for Ramallah. One of the people who wrote that law is currently a member of the same government as Frej: Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern.

Stern wrote about the pay-per-death program in The Jerusalem Post in 2018: “For those seeking and optimistic about the chances of peace, this incentive to kill, murder and maim is a major obstacle. It motivates the Palestinians to have greater financial security by killing Israelis, incited by their leaders, and shows many Israelis that the Palestinians have no interest in peace and will instead continue the war against them. “

Stern’s bill was intended to be the Israeli counterpart to the Taylor Force Act of 2018, which Israel strongly supported, which stopped US donations to the Palestinian Authority as long as they continue to “pay to kill.”

A senior diplomatic source admitted that there is a contradiction in the policies: “We want the Palestinian Authority to stop paying the terrorists, on the one hand, but we are encouraging the people to pay them. How can Israel support Taylor Force but tell countries to donate to the Palestinian Authority? “

The source noted that Israel is only encouraging donations for civil projects. But money is fungible; those donations simply free up other funds that can go to the “martyrs.”

The diplomatic source gave an explanation, which is that Israel prefers the money to go to the Palestinian Authority rather than to UNRWA.

“If UNRWA runs out of money, [donor states] it will not give its donations to Hamas, “he said.

Still, the dissonance is strong here: Israel supported the United States in stopping donations to the Palestinian Authority in lieu of death pay and deducting funds from the Palestinian Authority for the same reason, moves that members of this government supported, but it is also asking other countries to finance the PA. Israel opposes donations to UNRWA because it supports terrorism and promotes a narrative that it considers counterproductive to peace, but asks governments to contribute to the PA, which supports terrorism and exactly the same narrative.

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