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February 15, 2010 – The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel has urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak against transferring half a billion shekels in dollars or dinars to banks in the Gaza Strip and warned that it would take legal measures to block such a transfer.
Security sources confirmed on Sunday that banks in Ramallah filed such a request with the coordinator of activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Israel has not yet decided whether or not to grant it.
The source added that most of the Gazan economy is based on shekels and that until recently, shekels and dollars were the currencies in use when smuggling goods into Gaza from Egypt. Lately, however, smugglers have been refusing to accept shekels.
The source said it was almost certain that a large portion of this money would fall into the hands of Hamas or, worse still, Iran or other radical terrorist organizations.
In letters he sent to attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein, Netanyahu and Barak, the director-general of the Legal Forum, Nohi Eyal, pointed out that in the past, the state had officially declared that the money was earmarked only to pay Palestinian Authority civil servants in Gaza.
In 2008, the Legal Forum and the Israel Law Center petitioned the High Court of Justice after learning that Israel intended to transfer NIS 100 million to the Gaza Strip. The petitioners charged that the state was violating the law against funding terrorist organizations.
However, the state argued that the money was being used to pay PA civil servants and therefore the anti-terrorism law did not apply. The High Court upheld the state’s position.
Now, Eyal argued, “according to the reports, the request to convert the money is based on the smugglers’ refusal to continue accepting payment in shekels. They now want dollars in return for their smuggled goods. These smugglers are involved in bringing in weapons and combat equipment for terrorist use… Accepting their request is likely to help terrorism, and this is a violation of the law prohibiting terrorist funding.”