EU official proposes Palestinian terrorism payments on needs basis

The EU is ready to help the PA with technical assistance to organize such a system, Johannes Hahn said.

April 30, 2019 22:17
3 minute read.
 EU Commissioner for the European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn

EU Commissioner for the European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. (photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR)

Payments to Palestinian terrorists and their families should be based on needs rather than merit, a top European Union official proposed on Tuesday, as he sought a compromise proposal that would avert the financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

In Brussels on Tuesday, the 15-member Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that meets twice a year to discuss donor funding to the PA, attempted without success to find a resolutions to the PA’s funding crisis. The meeting, chaired by Norway, includes representatives from the EU, the United States, the United Nations, the Arab League, Israel and the PA. It is one of the few international forums where Israelis and Palestinians maintain normal ties.

The EU Commissioner for the European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, whose office is in charge of EU financial support to the PA, spoke at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee about the crisis resulting from the terrorism payment issue.

“We are all aware of the fiscal crisis the PA is facing and of the potential human, social and security consequences. Both sides need to move towards a solution,” he said.

“Israel’s decision to withhold clearance revenues violates current arrangements,” Hahn explained. “At the same time, we do not support the system of Palestinian payments to ‘prisoners and martyrs.’”

Israel has withheld from the PA’s tax revenues the money – estimated by the UN to be $140 million this year – that the PA distributes monthly to terrorists and their families.

To protest the Israeli tax revenue withholding, the PA has refused to accept of tax revenues from Israel, estimated by the UN to make up 65% of its budget. It’s a move that could trigger the collapse of the PA.

In defending the terrorism payments, Palestinians have pointed to the financial straights families of terrorists find themselves in, even though the payment system is sliding scale. The funding increases based on the severity of the crime and the time in jail.

Hahn suggested that the prisoners and their families should be integrated into the PA’s social welfare system, a move that would normalize payments but would also remove any financial incentive for terrorism.

The EU is ready to help the PA with technical assistance to organize such a system, Hahn said. The EU has not and will not be contributing financially to any social welfare payments to the prisoners and their families.

“We are ready to work with the Palestinian Authority to see how beneficiaries of the current scheme could be integrated on the basis of need rather than any other criteria into the PA’s regular social allowance system,” he stated.

“Should the PA and Israel not find a way out and should the PA’s fiscal situation so require, we would be ready to offer, as an interim measure, to any state, including Israel, to use the EU’s PEGASE system of direct financial support to channel funds, in the secure knowledge that they benefit vetted individuals, including those that are in Gaza,” Hahn said.

In its concluding remarks regarding the meeting, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said that the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to explore resolutions to the crisis.

‘I am pleased that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are now working actively to solve the ongoing fiscal crisis and conflict over the transfers of tax revenues,” Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said.

“The major cuts in public services in Palestine cannot continue. Today’s AHLC meeting in Brussels was a good start and a step on the way towards reaching agreement on this issue,” said Søreide.

“The international community cannot cover the financial gap that has now arisen. We will do what we can to support the parties and to help resolve the current crisis,” Søreide said.

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