The ticking time bomb that could upend Israel’s election

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters)
The Israeli government’s move to withhold $140 million from tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian Authority may be good politics, but it could lead to war.

By Amos Harel | Haaretz | Feb 25, 2019

The planned cut is already making the West Bank nervous. Security officials who talk to Palestinians report that residents are afraid that the PA won’t be able to pay salaries . . . . Some of the money Israel withholds will be deducted from the funds the PA pays to the Gaza Strip, which will have an immediate impact on the economic situation there.

Beneath the surface there’s a ticking bomb that could upend the entire election campaign, even though it has nothing to do with the investigations of the prime minister or the union of the centrist parties.

A series of negative developments on issues relating to the Palestinians – Jerusalem, prisoners, Palestinian Authority funds and the condition of Gaza’s infrastructure – once again are threatening an escalation between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly during the six weeks left until the Knesset election. The Palestinians themselves, and even Jordan, are responsible for some of these developments, but it seems the Israeli leadership is marching into a potential crisis with its eyes wide open.

Last week, the security cabinet, under clear political constraints, decided to implement a law passed by the Knesset last year and deduct NIS 500 million ($140 million) from tax revenues it collects for the PA, as punishment for the financial aid the PA provides to security prisoners. Israel tried something similar in January 2015, but quickly reversed it under Palestinian pressure. Now, with the election campaign in progress and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of being soft on terror, he had little political room to maneuver. The decision to deduct PA funds was made despite the wall-to-wall opposition by the heads of the security forces.

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