While the Palestinian Authority is again crying wolf over the financial crisis it is currently facing, let there be no mistake: this is a fake, self-created crisis that is a direct result of the P.A.’s “pay for slay” policy.
Since its creation, the P.A. (adopting the practice of the PLO) has paid monthly salaries to imprisoned terrorists and allowances to the families of dead terrorists. The salaries and allowances are not dependent on the social needs of the recipients. Rather, they are simply financial rewards for terrorism.
According to a 2004 P.A. law, all imprisoned terrorists, not only those affiliated with the P.A.-dominated Fatah, are entitled to receive the payment. The recipients include members of internationally recognized terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and even mass murderers such as Abdullah Barghouti—responsible for multiple terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 66 people.
In the past 15 years, the P.A. has raised these salaries and allowances multiple times.
The starting salary of terrorist prisoners currently stands at NIS 1,400 per month (approx. $390) and automatically rises over time to NIS 12,000 per month (approx. $3300)—a salary equal to that of P.A. ministers. Moreover, if a terrorist spends five years in an Israeli prison, he is then entitled to a guaranteed “pension” for the rest of his life.
More repugnant and troubling than the “pay for slay” policy itself is the fact that these payments are coming out of the money Israel collects for and transfers to the P.A. In other words, Israel is providing the P.A. with the money it uses to incentivize and reward Palestinian terrorists to attack Israelis.
The Oslo peace agreements provided that the P.A. would run the day-to-day lives of the Palestinians. To do so the P.A. needed money. Accordingly, as part of the peace agreements, Israel agreed to waive its right to gather various taxes and give these tax revenues instead to the P.A. The P.A., for its part, committed itself to abandoning violence and to fighting terrorism. However, instead of using these funds for their designated purpose, the P.A.—very typically—decided to use the money to incentivize and reward the very acts it had committed itself to combating.
Like a victim of domestic violence who finally stands up to their abuser, in 2018 Israel passed legislation according to which any sum expended by the P.A. on “pay for slay” during a given year would be deducted from the tax revenues Israel transferred to it the following year.
Accordingly, in February 2019, the Israeli cabinet decided to deduct from the 2019 tax transfers to the P.A. NIS 502 million (approx. $140 million)—the sum the P.A. had publicly admitted to paying to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners in 2018 in 12 monthly installments of just under NIS 42 million ($11.7 million).
Since the 2018 tax revenues came to just over NIS 8 billion ($2.2 billion), which on average translated into a monthly transfer of NIS 670 million ($186.3 million), the monthly deduction was no more that 6.2 percent, and would still allow the monthly transfer of some NIS 630 million ($175.2 million).
Rejecting the very notion of stopping the “pay to slay” program, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas decided instead to plunge the P.A. economy into the abyss by refusing to accept any of the tax revenues. Clearly demonstrating his priorities, he cut the salaries of P.A. employees by half while guaranteeing that the salaries of the terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists would be paid in full.
True to form, instead of castigating the P.A. for squandering billions on incentivizing and rewarding terrorists, French President Emmanuel Macron, the European Union and the United Nations are pressuring Israel to capitulate to Abbas’s blackmail and find a way to give the P.A. all the funds.
To avoid the current crisis all Abbas has to do is stop incentivizing and rewarding terrorists. Making this decision will not only restore all the tax revenues but will also open the door to receiving more international aid—such as aid from the United States, that has been withheld because of the P.A.’s “pay to slay” policy.
Alternatively, in a manner similar to the U.N. facilitating the Qatari funding to Gaza, maybe Israel should give the funds the P.A. is refusing to accept to the U.N., which can in turn pass it on to the P.A.
What is clear however, is that in the same way the victim of domestic violence should not be forced to return to their abusive spouse, who will simply continue to abuse them, Israel cannot and should not waver on this subject.
Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position he served as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.