Three interesting seemingly unrelated events have all merged into a real opportunity for Benjamin Netanyahu.
The first event is Netanyahu’s decision to withhold PA tax revenues while they pursue admission to the International Criminal Court. His decision to do so has caused him criticism from a number of sources, including domestic. Abbas is threatening to end security cooperation and various commentators are warning about a potential violent reaction from the Palestinians. Of course, no one is pressuring Abbas to simply give up on joining the ICC, which would solve the entire problem, but I digress.
The second event is the large sum of money owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Israel Electric Corp., leading it to the decision that it has to institute rolling blackouts as a message that the debt must be paid. Netanyahu appears to be against this step – and is convening a meeting about it. Of course, no one is pressuring the PA to pay their bill like any other consumer would have to, but I digress.
The third event is the decision today out of New York that the PA owes $218.5 million dollars, and maybe triple that, to victims of terror. (Interestingly, the amount of money now held by Israel is about $200 million). However, this could be a pyrrhic victory. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
“It’s going to be difficult but not impossible to collect the monetary judgment,” said Jens David Ohlin, a professor at Cornell Law School who specializes in international law. “The best hope the plaintiffs have in this case is to either find assets in the U.S. or convince the Israelis to help them collect the judgment.”
Hmmm….now where would Israel be able to find that kind of money to satisfy the judgment against the PA? See the first event.
Let’s recap: Israel owes the PA money; the PA owes victims of terror money; and the PA owes the Israel Electric Corp. money.
Netanyahu has been given a gift. He can do justice for terror victims, have the Electric Corp. start getting some money, and at the same time slowly start releasing money back to the PA so it can pay salaries.
What I propose is that every month, Israel transfers $30,000,000 to the terror victims (or to be held in court pending appeal), $30,000,000 to the Electric Corp. (on the condition they stop their rolling blackouts); and $30,000,000 to the PA, while retaining any surplus money pending a further decision.
One advantage is that it will be very difficult for the US to argue against payments towards a binding judgment in a US court. In addition, making payments to the Israel Eletctric Corp. will remove the allegations of “collective punishment” that are arising as a result of the periodic blackouts.
Finally, giving some money to the PA, but withholding some money, will still send the message that there is a price to be paid for their actions, and allow Netanyahu not to appear weak before elections. However, it will enable Israel to say that enough is being transferred to pay salaries and keep the PA viable.
Justice for terror victims. Keeping the electric company at bay. Avoiding the unintentional collapse of the PA. All while staying strong and principled. A creative solution in a difficult situation.