Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is campaigning for re-election, vowed Sunday to freeze money transfers to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the murder of a young Jewish woman.
Israel collects around $127 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports and then transfers it to the PA.
However, in response to PA payments to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel for attacks against Israelis, the Israeli parliament last year passed legislation to partially withhold funds.
“By the end of the week, the staff-work necessary for implementing the law on deducting terrorists’ salaries will be completed,” Netanyahu – who faces a general election in April – told reporters at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Next Sunday I will convene the security cabinet and we will approve the necessary decision to deduct the funds. Let nobody doubt, the funds will be deducted, at the start of next week,” Netanyahu said.
Right-wingers including Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday demanded that Netanyahu implement the law after a Palestinian was arrested at the weekend over the murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher.
“The law to offset terrorist funds passed… last July,” he tweeted. “I call on the prime minister – apply the law immediately.”
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said the PA would not go along with Israel withholding any part of the funds owed to it.
“The Palestinian Authority will refuse to receive any cleared funds if Israel deducts a penny from it,” he told AFP.
Army demolishing home
The Israeli army said Sunday it was preparing to demolish the West Bank home of the Palestinian suspected of Ansbacher’s murder, who has been identified by security officials as 29-year-old Arafat Irfaiya from the flashpoint city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
“Overnight, troops operated in Hebron, where the suspect in the murder of Ori Ansbacher is from,” the army said.
“During the operation, the troops surveyed the suspect’s house in order to examine the possibility of its demolition.”
Ansbacher’s body was found late Thursday in southeast Jerusalem, and she was buried the next day in her Israeli settlement of Tekoa.
Israeli security forces arrested the suspect in a raid in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
On Sunday, the Shin Bet security agency said Irfaiya had “nationalist” motives.
Netanyahu visited Ansbacher’s parents on Sunday evening, also telling them that the results of the investigation “determined that the murder was carried out for a nationalist motive,” the prime minister’s office said.
However, both the police and Shin Bet said previously that investigations had not concluded whether it was a “terrorist attack” or driven by another motive.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse