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U.S. Envoy Greenblatt Defends Israel’s Deduction of Terrorist Salaries

The United States envoy in charge of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians defended Israel’s decision to stop transferring taxes collected to the Palestinian Authority by the amount the PA was paying terrorists and their families, The New York Times reported Friday.

“If your citizens were being routinely attacked by terrorists, which of you would tolerate a reward system that compensated the attackers for their crimes?” Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations, wrote on Twitter. “How can we possibly censure Israel for taking the same stance?”

Greenblatt had been in New York to attend a closed United Nations Security Council session discussing the Israeli decision.

Last month, Israel’s Knesset decided to deduct the amount the PA pays terrorists and their families, under a program that is called “pay to slay,” from the amount that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government. The PA paid out some 502 million shekels ($138 million) to living terrorists in 2018, according to recent Israeli media reports.

Following this decision, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that he would refuse all transfers of money from Israel but that he would still pay the terrorists. Israel collects an estimated $222 million monthly on behalf of the PA, amounting to one-third of its budget. The PA also said that it was refusing American aid as long as the U.S. was demanding that it stop the practice of rewarding terror.

Abbas has consistently defied the U.S. and insisted that he will continue to pay terrorists and their families. In a 2017 meeting with Greenblatt, Abbas refused to budge on the issue. At that time, a PA official referred to Israeli and American pressure to stop paying terrorists as “aggression against the Palestinian people.” Last year, Abbas said that the PA would continue to pay terrorists and their families until “the last penny.”

Mansour al-Otaibi, Kuwait’s ambassador to the UN said that most members of the Security Council objected to the Israeli decision to withhold the funds as “unacceptable.”

“This is Palestinian money,” al-Otaibi said. “They have the right, the Palestinians, to do whatever they want with their money.”

Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, are developing a peace proposal. However, according to the Times, the Palestinians have refused to talk to the U.S. since Trump announced in December 2017 that he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

“Often, Israel is told that it must make sacrifices for peace,” Joshua S. Block, President and CEO of The Israel Project, wrote with respect to the PA’s refusal of U.S. aid. “In this instance, the P.A. is making a sacrifice so that it doesn’t have to make peace. Understanding the P.A.’s decision makes clear on whom the onus falls for the failure to give peace a chance.”

[Photo: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv / WikiCommons ]