Lawmakers and experts assembled at a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday expressed outrage over the Palestinian Authority’s policy of financially rewarding terrorist attacks against Israelis.
The PA provides paychecks for Palestinian terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel, as well as money for their families and the families of those killed while committing acts of terror, thereby providing a strong financial incentive for individuals to perpetrate acts of violence against Israelis. The more deadly the attack and the longer their prison sentence, the higher the salary the prisoner receives. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) referred to the program as “pay to slay,” while Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) warned that Palestinians “will never achieve their state on the backs of terrorism.” Both congressmen condemned incitement in Palestinian society, including in schools, mosques, and official PA television and newspapers, which cultivates hatred of Jews and dehumanizes Israelis.
Yigal Carmon, president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, testified that the PA provides around $300 million per year to terrorists and their families. This violates the Oslo Accords, in which the Palestinian leadership committed to halting terrorist activity. According to a recent report on Israel Radio, most prisoners in Israeli jails who receive PA money are Hamas members who were responsible for some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks of the Second Intifada.
Since the PA has been using money from Western donor countries to support Palestinian prisoners and their families, Carmon argued, this makes donor countries “complicit in encouraging terrorism as well.” He explained that in 2014, in order to mislead donor countries who were putting pressure on the PA to stop rewarding terrorism, the PA transferred the role of distribution of money from a ministry in the PA to a commission in the PLO. However, the PA remains the source of the funding, and the official in charge remains the same.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated in 2014 that the payments to terrorists and their families account for approximately 5% of the Palestinian Authority’s total budget, while Carmon estimated it could be as high as 10%. According to Carmon, the prisoners’ “years of imprisonment are calculated as years of seniority of service in PA institutions,” and those “imprisoned for five years or more are entitled to a job in a PA institution.” According to an appropriations law passed last December, the State Department will cut PA funding by an amount equivalent to the amount that the Palestinian governing body gives to incarcerated terrorists and the families of those who died committing acts of terrorism.
Eli Lake wrote in Bloomberg News last week that the practice of paying families of terrorists who were jailed by Israel or died as “martyrs” goes back to the 1990’s and was formalized during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005. “Israelis even found documents in the late Yasser Arafat’s compound that showed payments to families of suicide bombers,” Lake added.
Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah, who killed American-Israeli teenager Hallel Yaffa Ariel before being fatally shot by Israeli security forces last month, was called a “martyr” by the Palestinian Authority. Tarayrah’s mother expressed her pride in her son’s actions. “If the past is precedent,” Lake wrote, “she will receive a steady check to honor her son’s murder of a 13-year-old Jewish girl in her sleep.”
Criticism of the PA’s terrorist payment policy has grown in recent months. The Mail on Sunday reported in March that the PA was continuing to use British foreign aid money to pay terrorists’ salaries despite having promised to stop. Several weeks later, the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch showed that the PA was using aid money from other countries as well. PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not deny that his government paid salaries to terrorists when pressed by on that point in May by Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende. The United Kingdom announced a probe last month into whether foreign aid money was being misused to pay salaries to terrorists.
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