Palestinian Authority officials confirmed on Wednesday that they will continue paying salaries to terrorists and their families, contradicting an assertion by United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the policy had been stopped.
“There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them,” one Palestinian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“They could perhaps be labeled differently,” he added, indicating that the label “martyr” may no longer be used, but that the payments “are not going to be stopped.”
“There is no end to the payments” of Palestinian prisoners, Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, similarly told the Times of Israel. “We reject ending the subsidies to the prisoners and families of martyrs. We will not apologize for it.”
Qarage characterized American and Israeli pressure to end the payments as “aggression against the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which supports Palestinian inmates, told Haaretz that this month’s payments had been made, confirming Israeli charges that the PA had not ended the practice.
Tillerson told the Senate on Tuesday that the Palestinians “have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others.” He added, “We have been very clear with them that this [practice of paying terrorists] is simply not acceptable to us.”
Tillerson claimed that the Palestinians changed the policy after meeting with President Donald Trump in Bethlehem last month.
Earlier that month, an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas called President Trump’s request to end the payments to terrorists “insane.”
The PA issued payments to terrorists and their families totaling more than $1 billion over a four year period, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The sum accounts for seven percent of the PA’s budget and is equivalent to 20 percent of the foreign aid the PA receives annually.
The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board argued in November that payments to Palestinian terrorists “are an official incentive program for murder that in any other context would be recognized as state sponsorship of terror.”
Eli Lake wrote in Bloomberg View in July that offering salaries to Palestinians who kill Israelis “encourages” terror attacks “as a legitimate act of resistance.”
The subject of payments to terrorists came to the fore in Britain in March 2016 after The Mail on Sunday published an exposé showing that the PA paid generous salaries to a number of convicted Palestinian terrorists. That report, as well as another released by Israel Radio, was based on research done by Palestinian Media Watch, a nonprofit that has documented how the PA incentivizes terror since 2011.
A 2014 report in The Telegraph showed that the PA used over $90 million in British foreign aid to pay convicted terrorists in 2013. This equaled around 16 percent of all foreign aid payments to the PA.
[Photo: U.S. Department of State]