Reality: Palestinian “welfare” payments encourage terror
Palestinian payouts to terrorists jailed by Israel and to families of “martyred” or injured terrorists are billed as social welfare, a social responsibility in support of “heroes” of the “occupation.” In truth, a payout is a valued reward for attacking Jewish Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) subsidies are meant to encourage violence against anyone and anything Zionist. The spur: Israel’s settler and military presence in the West Bank plus its reunification of Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s eternal capital.
P.A. officials maintain that jailed, “martyred” or injured terrorists become political prisoners deserving of government support in the “struggle” against Israel’s “occupation” of disputed land, reports Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israel-based watchdog whose July special report exposed the P.A. lie that terrorist payouts are a goodwill gesture.
The P.A. considers a “martyr” to be anyone killed or wounded in the “struggle againist Zionism,’’ including those killed while attacking or otherwise confronting an Israeli, according to PMW.
The 2017 P.A. budget for payouts to terrorists jailed by Israel for security or terror offenses and to families of terrorists “martyred” or injured in the act of murdering or maiming Israelis is equal to about half of the foreign aid Ramallah anticipates this year — $693 million, according to Times of Israel.
Despite escalating pressure from the West, including congressional debate on how much to curtail assistance in protest, the P.A. denies any intent to halt terrorist payouts, a denial tantamount to denying Israel’s right to exist.
The P.A. governs Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank through President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction. The P.A. Finance Ministry’s 2017 budget for monthly salaries for jailed and released Palestinian prisoners (many convicted terrorists) is $158 million, up 13 percent from 2016. Payouts rise as Israeli imprisonment lengthens, and they continue upon release. They’re not based on family status and taxes are assessed. Salaries are higher than what civil servants receive.
The P.A. pays salaries, ranging from $388 to $3,324 a month, to 6,300 terrorist prisoners.
The P.A. awards 6,800 families of “martyred” terrorists and 8.300 families of injured terrorists a monthly allowance. The 2017 allowance budget is $197 million, up 4 percent.
The sum of the payouts to terrorist prisoners and families ($355 million) is greater than the 2017 P.A. budget for social welfare ($211 million), notes the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
It’s sobering to think terrorist payouts could have gone toward legitimate social needs to invigorate the beleaguered P.A.
Both Israel and the U.S. are considering laws that would slice hundreds of millions of dollars in P.A. aid unless the pathetic payout practice ends. The idea of earning substantial reward certainly must appeal to young, impressionable Palestinians drawn by the allure of “martyrdom.”
The U.S. Senate is considering the Taylor Force Act. It would reduce funding that directly benefits the P.A. while protecting humanitarian assistance to ordinary Palestinians provided the P.A. works harder to tamp down terror.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee supports the bipartisan bill, named for an American stabbed to death in a 2016 terrorist attack while studying in Tel Aviv. It’s unclear how much of the $260 million a year in non-security aid the U.S. gives the P.A. would be affected by the bill. The bill wouldn’t affect the almost $100 million a year the U.S. extends in security support.
The Taylor Force Act seeks a general welfare system for all Palestinians within the jurisdictional control of the P.A. — a system that could fill the void if P.A. payouts to families of “martyred” or injured terrorists ceased and a mechanism to determine actual need was installed.
For its part, the Knesset, is reviewing a bill that would slash the amount of annual tax revenue that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians by a percentage of the amount the P.A. earmarked in 2016 for terrorist payouts ($355 million).
Reducing P.A. aid in opposition to terrorist payouts makes sense if it not only doesn’t further destabilize Ramallah and radicalize Palestinians, but also doesn’t further limit U.S. leverage in pursuit of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Building an international coalition that condemns the payouts — European Union, U.N. Security Council, friendly Arab governments, are you listening? — could work in concert with U.S. and Israeli allocation cuts to compel the P.A. to reconsider.
Daniel Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, told the Jewish news service JTA a complete cutoff of P.A. aid would be “more persuasive,” but could have a deleterious effect.
“Stability in the West Bank, both economic and political, serves Israel’s security interest by dampening the atmosphere in which Palestinians might be drawn to extremism,” said Shapiro, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
We shouldn’t forget about continuing humanitarian assistance for the Gaza Strip. Gazans are burdened enough by their terrorist overseer, Hamas.
No Easy Fix
It’s likely that dollars sent to the P.A. presumably for infrastructure, medical bills, teachers’ wages, debt relief and police services enable the P.A. to divert shekels not only toward terrorist payouts, but also toward textbooks that incite and glorify violence against “the Zionist entity.”
With the White House on record against the payouts, America is on course to make a case compelling enough to sway President Abbas, who vows no “compromise on the salary of a martyr or a prisoner” and blames dormant peace talks squarely on Israel.
Ending terrorist payouts would be a significant stride toward changing Palestinian culture. Still, it’ll take generations to reverse the hatred toward Israel and Jews that young Palestinians have been indoctrinated with by parents, schools, mosques, music videos, street and park names, government edicts and sports tournaments.