Palestinians paid terrorists $1bn over past 4 years, ex-intelligence chief says
The Palestinian Authority has over the past four years handed out approximately NIS 4 billion (approximately $1.12 billion) in salary payments to terrorists and their families, a former Israeli intelligence chief told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
Brig.-Gen (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and ex-head of the army’s intelligence and research division, told the Knesset panel that payments and other benefits given to perpetrators of attacks who are jailed by Israel are determined by the length of their prison sentence.
"Anyone who has sat in prison for more than 30 years gets NIS 12,000 ($3,360) per month," Kuperwasser is quoted by the Hebrew-language NRG news website. "When they’re released, they get a grant and are promised a job at the Palestinian Authority. They get a military rank that’s determined according to the number of years they’ve served in jail."
Kuperwasser also denied the classification of such payments as "social welfare benefits" saying that the Palestinian Authority's own budgetary documents "clearly state that these are salaries and not welfare payments."
Kuperwasser, who is now a project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank, told the Committee that the funds were channeled indirectly from the PA to recipients "via a non-government 'payment fund'".
"There was a willingness to believe the lies that it was social support. In practice, no steps have been taken to change the situation and in the meantime, the Palestinians are trying to depict themselves as supporting peace while they are still paying the families of terrorists," Kuperwasser said. "Assurance of a cash prize for acts of terror is encouragement to terrorism, and is against international law, international conventions, the Oslo accords, and other agreements that they have signed on."
The hearing on the matter came just days after a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump in Bethlehem, after which Trump, in an apparent denunciation of the practice, warned Abbas that "peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded."
Despite expressing confidence after the meeting that both the Israelis and Palestinians appeared ready to reach for peace, the meeting between Abbas and Trump was reported to be deeply tense behind closed doors.
A report by Israel's Channel 2 television on Sunday cited Israeli sources quoting Trump as having furiously accused Abbas of lying "about commitment to peace" during an earlier meeting between the leaders at the White House in April, after Israel reportedly showed Trump evidence that Abbas was "personally responsible for incitement."
The outburst was reportedly followed by several minutes of silence before the meeting resumed, the report said.
Multiple Palestinian officials have denied the report to both the Palestinian Ma'an news agency as well as to Israel's Haaretz newspaper.
But a Palestinian official told the Israel Hayom daily on Monday that while the meeting "started on a positive not" it quickly "deteriorated after Trump accused Abbas of supporting incitement and terrorism with the salaries paid to prisoners."
"Trump made it clear to Abbas that he must curb anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian education system, saying Abbas cannot turn a blind eye to Palestinian incitement and pay stipends to terrorists’ families while simultaneously setting conditions that hinder any progress in the peace talks," the paper quoted the unnamed official as saying.
When Abbas responded that a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee established to fight incitement on both sides had not met in a number of years, a furious Trump reportedly slammed his fists on the table and ripped into Abbas.
Trump had urged Abbas to clamp down on anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian education system during their meeting in Washington and also criticized the Palestinian Authority's policy of handing out social welfare payments to the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed perpetrating attacks against Israelis.
Israel believes the payments might encourage radical and poor Palestinians to turn to terror in a bid to be jailed and secure such funds for their families, and considers the strong anti-Israeli messages in Palestinian education to be one of the stumbling blocks for a peaceful resolution of the long-standing conflict.
The US has taken a firmer stance on the issue of payouts to terrorists after the revival of the Taylor Force Act by Congress -- legislation that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to provide financial support to the families of perpetrators of attacks against Israelis.
The proposed bill is named after former US army officer Taylor Force and Vanderbilt University graduate student Taylor Force, who was killed in a stabbing attack while on an educational visit to Tel Aviv with fellow students in March 2016.
(Staff with agencies)
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every dollar the US and Europe send to the palis is a dollar contributed to terrorism. I hope action follows Trump's tough words and he moves the embassy as well.