Israel May Cut Off Palestinian Banks From Global Banking System Next Week

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Mar 29, 2024 - 02:55 AM

Via Middle East Eye

Palestinian banks could be cut off from the Israeli banking system starting next week following a decision by Israel’s finance minister to cease dealings between the two financial institutions, according to a report on Thursday by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has two days to convene a cabinet meeting to discuss reversing plans by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to isolate Palestinian banks from both the Israeli and international banking systems.

Bank of Palestine ATM, via Associated Press

The Palestinian economy is based on the Israeli currency, the shekel, making it reliant on ties to Israel and its financial dealings with the rest of the world must go through the Bank of Israel and Israeli banks.

Earlier this month, the hardline minister Smotrich threatened to paralyze the Palestinian Authority's economy in response to the United States imposing sanctions on four West Bank extremist settlers accused of violence against Palestinians. 

Israeli banks have heeded the sanctions despite calls by Smotrich not to comply. Two Israeli banks, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Hapoalim, currently maintain the connections of Palestinian banks with the banking system in Israel and globally

To protect them from lawsuits involving the Palestinian Authority for "transferring funds to terror groups", the Israeli government has been issuing a waiver of protection for the two banks on an annual basis, signed by the finance minister. 

Smotrich is now refusing to renew the arrangement, which has been in place for years.  Without this protection, the PA will be stripped of immunity and the Israeli banks will be exposed to lawsuits and are expected to cut ties with Palestinian banks.

The consequences of isolating the PA from the financial world and Israel’s economy would significantly paralyze the Palestinian economy. 

Any Israeli company that has business relations with the PA will no longer be able to deposit Palestinian cheques or receive payments from Palestinian banks, according to Haaretz.  Even Palestinian workers, who must only receive their wages in a bank deposit according to a 2022 agreement between Palestinian and Israeli authorities, will not be able to continue receiving wages in Israel, unless they are made in cash.

Other areas that would be affected by Smotrich’s move include Palestinian export and import operations, which go through Israeli ports, and Palestinian tax funds, which are collected by Israel.