Israel

Palestinians Refuse to Stop Payments to Terrorists, Accuse U.S. of Siding with Israel

The Palestinian Authority has accused the U.S. delegation of being mouthpieces for the Israel government and refused Washington’s watered-down demand to stop paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists, The Times of Israel reported Friday.

Jared Kushner, senior presidential adviser and Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday, along with the U.S. administration’s international negotiator Jason Greenblatt.

Abbas reportedly left the meeting enraged by the delegation’s demand to cut off payments for some convicted terrorists and their families. Originally, the U.S. had demanded that Ramallah stop all payments, but later watered-down conditions to some 600 prisoners serving life sentences for murder.

A day after meeting the Americans, Abbas defended payments to Palestinian prisoners, including convicted terrorists, as “social responsibility” and accused Israel of trying to sabotage peace negotiations with unreasonable demands.

Last month, Nabil Shaath, a top adviser to Abbas, called the American insistence that the PA stop paying terrorists “insane.”

The Palestinian Authority reportedly also accused the U.S. delegation of siding with Israel against the interests of the Palestinians. “They sounded like Netanyahu’s advisers and not as honest mediators,” a source told Haaretz.

Kushner and Greenblatt accepted Israel’s position regarding payments to Palestinian prisoners,” a source told Ynet, “and described it as a means of inciting terror, demanding it be stopped.”

The Israeli position is backed by the Oslo II Interim Agreement, signed in September 1995 between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, which strictly forbids incitement. Both parties must “abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and (…) shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction,” the agreement states.

The Palestinian Authority, however, rebuffed U.S. demands and instead called for an Israeli settlement freeze. A Palestinian delegation is expected to head to Washington next month for further talks.

Earlier this month, PA officials confirmed that they will continue paying salaries to terrorists and their families, contradicting an assertion by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the policy had been stopped. Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, characterized American and Israeli pressure to end the payments as “aggression against the Palestinian people.”

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: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90 ]