Israeli citizens Karim and Maher Younis, released from prison this month after serving 40-year sentences for murdering an Israeli soldier, have both received large sums from the Palestinian Authority under its “pay for slay” policy, according to Israeli NGO Palestinian Media Watch.
PMW filed a complaint to the State’s Attorney’s Office on the matter two months ago, said Maurice Hirsch, the organization’s head of legal strategies.
“We know that this happened because we took the information from an order by [then-Defense Minister Benny] Gantz in September 2022 to seize millions of shekels that were paid by the P.A. to Israeli Arab terrorists. The document stipulated that both Karim and Maher Younis had each received 335,362 shekels [$98,698] from the P.A. in compensation for murdering an Israeli soldier,” said Hirsch.
“There were 49 terrorists included on the list, with Karim and Maher Younis having received the largest sums,” he said, adding that two weeks ago, PMW had submitted the complaint to the Israel Police as well.
“It is outrageous that [Arab-Israeli] terrorists see themselves as Palestinians who carry out acts of terror on behalf of Palestinians, and the P.A. also sees them as people who acted on behalf of the Palestinian interest. In fact, they see them as their soldiers,” he added.
Cousins Karim and Maher Younis murdered Israel Defense Forces Cpl. Avraham Bromberg on the Golan Heights in 1980. Both were sentenced to life in prison in 1983 but had their sentence commuted to 40 years in 2012 by then-Israeli President Shimon Peres. Maher was released from jail on Thursday morning, two weeks after Karim, who received a hero’s welcome in the northern village of ’Ara.
The warm welcome reflected the views of the Palestinian leadership; P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has described Palestinian and Arab Israeli terrorists as “pioneers” and “stars in the firmament of the Palestinian people’s struggle” who top the list of the P.A.’s priorities. He has vowed that if the P.A. had “only a single penny left” it would go towards paying “the families of the martyrs and prisoners.”
Earlier this month, the Israeli Cabinet decided to withhold taxes and tariffs collected on behalf of and transferred to the P.A. in an amount equal to that which Ramallah paid to terrorists and their families in 2022, as part of a larger set of punitive measures in response to the P.A.’s ongoing “political and legal war” against the Jewish state.
The move came after the U.N. General Assembly in late December approved, at Ramallah’s behest, a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”
In parallel, the Knesset this month green-lit the fast-tracking of legislation to revoke the Israeli citizenship and residency of terrorists who receive a salary for their crimes from the P.A.
“For years we’ve become accustomed to having an entity [the Palestinian Authority] receive funding from the State of Israel while it maintains an official price list: ‘Murdered a Jew? Here’s a stipend. And if you’re an Israeli citizen, you’ll get more, depending on how many people you’ve killed,’” said Religious Zionism Party lawmaker Simcha Rothman, who drafted the bill along with Likud colleagues.
“The bare minimum we can do as a moral country is to revoke their citizenship and residency,” he added.
In addition to receiving funding from the P.A. under the “pay for slay” policy, Karim is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee, which is also a violation of Israeli counter-terror laws since Fatah was declared a terrorist organization by Israel in 1986, noted Hirsch.
Then-P.A. Director of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in 2017 that Karim had been appointed to the committee to dispel the notion that Palestinians jailed in Israel were criminals.
“They are freedom prisoners and fighters who enjoy an important national, human and legal status among their leadership and among their Palestinian people,” Qaraqe said in a P.A. TV report.
However, Hirsch explained that while there was no doubt that Fatah remains on Israel’s list of designated terror groups, Israel has not put anyone on trial for Fatah membership since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
“Any type of membership in Fatah is technically a breach of the law. Definitely holding a senior position is even more serious, because Israel’s anti-terrorism laws outline different levels of membership and proportional punishments,” he said. “If you’re a rank-and-file member in a terrorist group, you’re subject to five to seven years in jail. But if you’re involved in running an organization, then you’re liable for 10-15 years in prison just for this,” he added.
Despite this, however, “Abbas is the head of Fatah and also the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which [also] remains a designated terrorist organization. Instead of arresting him, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz invited Abbas to his home in Rosh Ha’ayin and agreed to give him ‘loans‘ of hundreds of millions of shekels,” said Hirsch.
“So, it would be difficult to go to Karim Younis and say he is to face consequences for being a member of Fatah.”
Ben Gale contributed to this report.