A Palestinian prisoner, convicted of security offences against Israel, looks out of his cell at Nitzan jail.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
The Palestinian Authority spent at least NIS 502 million in payments to terrorist prisoners in 2018, according to a report released Thursday by the Israeli research institute Palestinian Media Watch.
PMW has provided the Defense Ministry with its calculations ahead of a first-time implementation of the Stern Law, an Israeli law that was approved in July 2018 and that is supposed to be implemented for the first time in January 2019.
The law mandates that the government deducts, on a monthly basis, 1/12 of the sum given to support terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects and transfers to the Palestinian Authority, based on the amount distributed in the previous year – in this case, in 2018.
PMW based its calculations on the Palestinian Authority’s own budgetary update and information obtained from the Israeli Prison Service. However, the institute said that the PA does not provide details of how this money was allocated between the terrorist prisoners and the released terrorist prisoners.
At least 230 million shekels were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, according to PMW, and at least 176 million shekels were paid in salaries to released terrorist prisoners. The remaining 96 million shekels covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorist prisoners that PMW is unable to precisely quantify, according to the report.
Further, PMW calculations refer only to PA payments to terrorist prisoners and released terrorist prisoners, and do not include the PA payments to the families of dead terrorists or Palestinian “martyrs.” The PA budget for martyrs is listed under the same budget category as the wounded and those civilians who have been killed but were not involved in terror. The 2018 PA budget allocated 687 million shekels for these causes. The Stern Law
requires that the defense minister, currently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, compiles an annual report of the PA’s payments to the terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners, martyrs and wounded. Once approved by the Security Cabinet, the Israeli government will deduct the amount the PA spent to incentivize and reward terrorists from the taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA.
“The law that imposes monetary sanctions on the PA because of its payments to terrorists is one of the most important laws passed in Israel in recent years, because it sends a clear message to the Palestinian Authority that Israel will by no means accept its support for terrorism,” said PMW director Itamar Marcus.
The PMW report comes amid ongoing challenges to determine and agree on the total amount being allocated to terrorists.
In a March 2018 speech at the American Public Affairs and Defense Committee conference, Netanyahu claimed that the Palestinian Authority was paying about $350 million a year to terrorists and their families.
“Raise your hands high if you agree with me that [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas should stop paying terrorists to murder Jews,” Netanyahu said in that speech. “You know how much he pays? He pays about $350 million a year to terrorists and their families. Each year. That’s about a little less than 10% of the total Palestinian budget. That’s an incredible number, he pays Hakim Awad, the terrorist who murdered this beautiful family of Ehud and Ruth Fogel and their three children and a 3-month-old baby girl, he pays Hakim Awad this murderer.”
“Over the lifetime of this killer he will be receiving $2 million,” Netanyahu continued. “I have a message for President Abbas. Stop paying terrorists! Because what message does this send to Palestinian children? It says murder Jews and get rich!”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians pay $350 million a year to terrorists. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)
A Washington Post report
following Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech found that the number Netanyahu provided was “a little fuzzy” and that the exact amount of money that the US State Department estimates goes to terrorists is not only classified, but perhaps as much as two-thirds smaller.
The Israeli government generally relies on research done by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry who now works as a scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, to provide it an estimate of pay-to-slay payments, as they are commonly known.
In December 2018, Kuperwasser published a report on the JCPA website
that said the total PA budget for 2018 is $5 billion and that amount that supports prisoners is $155 million, out of which $147 million are spent on transfers to the prisoners.
The money was divided as follows: salaries to 5,000 prisoners; paying Israeli fines for 1,200 prisoners; grants to 1,500 prisoners upon their discharge; grants for 1,200 unemployed released prisoners; delayed payments to 1,000 prisoners; salaries for 5,500 released prisoners; unspecified amounts to released prisoners who spent more than 10 years in jail; canteen expenditures for 6,000 prisoners; and clothing allocations for 5,000 prisoners.
The US also has a law against payment to terrorists by the PA. In March 2018, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, named for a US military veteran who was killed in a terrorist stabbing attack in 2016 in Jaffa. That bill ends some US aid to the PA as long as payment of stipends to terrorists continues.
“We hope that Israel will implement the law fully this month, as required by law, so that the PA will understand that Israel will act with all its might against any manifestation of support for terrorism on its part,” Marcus said.