TEL AVIV – Ahead of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting with President Donald Trump yesterday, his Fatah party released statements to donor countries with the outlandish claim that paying salaries to terrorists actually helps the Palestinian Authority make peace.
In the meeting between the two leaders Wednesday, Trump “raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror and to their families and emphasized the need to resolve this issue,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
Last month, Fatah Central Committee member and Commissioner of International Relations Rawhi Fattouh lamented the “drop in support and funding” from donor countries, which he claimed was the result of “pressures exerted” on their leaders by “Israel supporters and lobbies.” The stipends to terrorists in Israeli prisons or to their families amount to $150 million.
According to Fattouh, who also served as interim president of the PA after Yasser Arafat and before Abbas, stopping such payments would only make the terrorists more extreme.
“If we do not do this [pay salaries to prisoners], what will be their fate? They are liable to turn to ISIS or any other extremist party,” he said according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch.
“Therefore, we reject the statements of those who request that we act differently, and say to the donor states that your donations help the PA bring peace to the Middle East, and if you shake off this role you must bear the consequences,” he added.
Fattouh’s comments fly in the face of other official statements by PA leaders who have claimed that the funds are given in a gesture of “appreciation” for acts of terror.
In 2013, when the issue of terrorist salaries was brought to the attention of European donor countries, then-PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake said that the “heroes” deserve dignity.
“The Europeans want their money that comes to us to remain clean – not to go to families of those they claim to be terrorists. [They] need to renounce this occupation mentality,” Karake said on live television.
He added that the prisoners “are heroes, fedayyeen (suicide jihadists), and fighters who fought so that we could live in dignity. … These heroes, whom you are applauding, must live in dignity, so that we will continue to hold our heads high. We appreciate the people of the revolution and are proud of them.”
Fattouh’s defense of terrorist salaries was riddled with outright lies. He began by claiming that “most of the prisoners that Israel arrests are taken while living securely in their homes; in other words, they did not carry out any military activity or self-sacrificing activity” – a euphemism for a terror attack.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of security prisoners receiving PA monthly salaries were arrested, tried and convicted for direct involvement in terror activities or planning terror activities.
Fattouh referred to the “martyrs” whose families receive monthly PA allowances as “civilians” who were never involved in any jihadist militant groups but were unfortunate enough to “fall victim to Israel’s crimes.” He further claimed that many of the families being paid by the PA are those of civilians killed by Israel in the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
Yet the PA itself has admitted that it has not yet distributed funds to the families of victims of that war, despite numerous protests.
In March, independent Palestinian news agency Maan reported that the “1,943 families of martyrs [who] are expecting the end of their suffering through [PA] payments” should know that the issue “is on the [PA’s] list of priorities.”
At a memorial ceremony on Monday for 4,128 people killed in terrorist incidents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Abbas directly, telling him to “fund peace, not murder.”
“How can you speak about peace with Israel and at the same time pay murderers who spill the blood of innocent Israelis?” the prime minister asked, adding that if Abbas were really serious about peace, he would cease such payments immediately.
Watch a video of then-PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake’s remarks defending terrorist salaries.