Palestinian Affairs

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Does the State Department Support PA Stipends for Terrorists?

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) last week released U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson’s congressional testimony from April erroneously claiming that the Palestinian Authority’s funding of terrorists is because “they have to provide for the families.”

On April 29, Patterson presented the administration’s Middle East and North Africa budget request for the fiscal year of 2015. In the testimony (see the embedded video below) Ambassador Patterson, when prodded by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) on how much the PA was paying terrorists in prison, responded that “they pay families whose relatives are imprisoned and then they do pay some of these people after they’re released…”

However, PMW noted:

According to PA law and in practice the PA does not give stipends to terrorist prisoners’ families but salaries to the terrorist prisoners themselves. PMW has already reported that the PA Minister of Prisoners vocally rejected the claim that the payments are social welfare aid to the prisoners’ families, stressing instead that the prisoners receive salaries “out of esteem.” [WAFA, the official PA news agency, Dec. 27, 2012, see full quote below] This was likewise corroborated by Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares when he announced that the PA had decided on a final version of the law, “which considers payments made to prisoners ‘salaries,’ (Arabic: ratib) to which no other term applies.” [Al-Quds Internet edition, Dec. 27, 2012]

A 2012 investigation by Israel’s Channel 2 provided some history and numbers for those salaries. The Times of Israel reported:

Starting in 2003, Palestinian law mandated the dispensation of a monthly salary of NIS 1,000 ($250) to security detainees sentenced to up to five years in prison. The longer the sentence, the higher the pay. An inmate serving a life sentence was paid NIS 4,000 ($1,000) per month.

An amendment of the law in January 2011 enacted by [Salam] Fayyad increased the salaries by up to 300%, Channel 2 reported.

A prisoner sentenced up to three years in prison now receives a base salary of NIS 1,400 per month, and for 3-5 years that rate increases to NIS 2,000, the report said. A NIS 300 bonus is added for a wife, and NIS 50 per child.

The bulk of the money went to the prisoners themselves, not their families. At the time of the Channel 2 investigation, the PA spent 6% of its budget on salaries for prisoners. The Times of Israel also notes that “members of Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad all receive” the benefits.

The State Department 2013 country report on terror, released earlier this year, noted only that “As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided significant financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in 2013 in an effort to reintegrate them into society.”

[Photo: U.S. Congress ]