Youth holds stone as Palestinians clash with IDF in the West Bank.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office would not say whether the premier supports Israeli legislation in the Knesset to block funding to the Palestinian Authority that goes to paying terrorists and their families, just hours after he condemned the payments on Monday.
“How can you speak about peace with Israel and at the same time pay murderers who spill the blood of innocent Israelis?” Netanyahu asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his speech at a Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Herzl for victims of terrorism. “Fund peace, not murder.”
The prime minister called on Abbas to stop the payments, two days before the PA president is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington. The issue of funding is expected to come up in the meeting.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also brought up the issue of payments to terrorists in an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times: “The Palestinian Authority must also stop the most insidious form of encouragement to violence: payments to convicted terrorists and their families. The authority has enacted official legislation guaranteeing monthly stipends to every incarcerated terrorist and their families. The worse the attack and the longer the sentence, the higher the payout. Because the Palestinian Authority’s budget depends heavily on foreign aid, these payments are, for all intents and purposes, paid by the taxpayers in the countries of foreign funders…Both politicians and ordinary citizens must demand an end to this gross abuse of international funds.”
Despite these comments, Netanyahu and his cabinet has yet to decide whether or not to support an Israeli bill that would curb tax payments to the PA as long as terrorists are being paid. The Prime Minister's Office said they are unable to provide answers yet, and the office of MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), who drafted the bill, said the cabinet has not committed to supporting his proposal.
According to PA law, 7% of its budget goes to paying Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, during and after serving their sentences, or to the families of those killed or injured in the conflict, many of whom are terrorists. These payments amount to about NIS 1.1 billion, or $300 million, annually. The payment made to an individual is increased according to their Israeli prison sentence, such that, effectively, the more people a terrorist harms, the more he or she is paid. For many, this amounts to a salary significantly higher than the average among Palestinians.
Israel collects taxes for the PA without taking these payments to terrorists into consideration.
Stern decided to change the situation, proposing a bill by which the percentage of the Palestinian budget allocated to paying terrorists and their families will be docked from the amount of tax money Israel transfers to the PA. The amount will be determined by the PA’s reports from the previous year.
“A necessary condition for peace is our neighbor’s recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist with security,” Stern wrote in the bill. “This recognition must be expressed not only in words. IT requires the Palestinian leadership to show through actions and policies that the aim to destroy Israel, promote hatred of Jews and support for terrorism against Israelis are not acceptable.”
Stern said he wrote the bill at the request of US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who drafted the Taylor Force Act.
Graham’s bill seeks to cut off all US foreign aid to the “West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies certifies that the Palestinian Authority: Is taking steps to end acts of violence against US and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control…is publicly condemning such acts of violence and is investigating, or cooperating in investigations of, such acts; and has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against US and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual.”
In the House, the bill is sponsored by Rep.s Doub Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
The proposal was named the Taylor Force Act after a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Jaffa last year.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.