Israel’s prime minister allegedly wanted the UAE to pay welfare benefits to Palestinians he put out of work
UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed shot down Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request that he pay unemployment benefits to Palestinians who’d been barred from entering Israel, Axios reported. Angered by the request, Sheikh Mohammed reportedly told the Israeli leader to ask Ukraine’s lavishly-funded president instead.
Netanyahu approached the Emirati leader “a few weeks ago” and asked him to pay unemployment benefits to more than 100,000 Palestinian residents of the West Bank who had been unable to travel to their jobs in Israel since October, Axios reported on Monday, citing an unnamed Israeli official and another anonymous source.
Sheikh Mohammed was taken aback by the request, the anonymous source said. Arguing that Netanyahu had created the problem himself by banning these workers from traveling between Palestinian and Israeli territory, he refused to pay.
“Ask Zelensky for money,” Mohammed reportedly jibed at Netanyahu. The Ukrainian president “gets a lot of money from many countries so maybe he would be able to help,” Mohammed explained to the Israeli leader, in Axios’ words.
Despite the fact that Israel has close diplomatic and military ties with the UAE, “the notion that Arab countries will come in to rebuild and pay the bill for what’s currently happening is wishful thinking,” an Emirati official told Axios.
Netanyahu’s decision to approach Abu Dhabi was apparently one of desperation. Shortly after the travel ban was imposed, the Israeli Defense Ministry recommended that a certain number of Palestinian workers be allowed to enter Israel, in order to avert the collapse of the West Bank’s economy and the potential violence that would follow.
The Israeli economic cabinet, led by hardline Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, rejected the advice. Despite pressure from the defense ministry and the Shin Bet intelligence agency, Netanyahu refused to bring the matter to a vote in his security cabinet after Smotrich – who hails from an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank – and several other far-right ministers threatened to resign and collapse his government, per Axios’ sources.
The West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) rather than Hamas, and as such has been spared the wholesale destruction visited on Gaza by the Israeli military over the last three months.
However, sporadic clashes have claimed the lives of 330 Palestinians and several dozen Israelis in the territory since October, and with Netanyahu barring workers and freezing tax revenue collected by the PA, Israeli security chiefs have warned the prime minister several times in recent days that the area is on the brink of a major escalation, Channel 12 reported on Monday.
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