(CNSNews.com) – The Palestinian Authority dedicates an estimated ten percent of its budget to pay the families of Palestinian terrorists, including those killed during attacks and those in prison, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard Wednesday.
American taxpayers will account for $442 million in aid to the P.A. in FY 2016.
In the P.A.’s 2016 budget, $137.8 million was earmarked for prisoners and their families, and $172.5 million for the families of “martyrs,” Yigal Carmon, founder and president of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told the panel.
Carmon said a P.A. government regulation instituted in 2010 stipulated that the amount paid to prisoners’ families depended on the length of sentence – ranging from $364 a month for jail terms of up to three years, to $3,120 a month for 30 years or more.
In addition, he said, terrorists from Jerusalem get a further $78 monthly supplement while Arab Israelis get an $130 monthly supplement.
Anyone imprisoned for five years or more is automatically eligible on release for a job with the P.A. institution, he added.
With regard to the families of Palestinians killed carrying out terrorist attacks, Carmon cited 2011 Palestinian media reports saying that the family of each “martyr” receives a one-off payment of $1,560, plus a monthly allowance of $364. Married terrorists and those with children receive additional supplements ($104 for those who were married, and $52 per child).
Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said that the sliding scale of payment for imprisoned Palestinians meant that “the highest payments go to those serving life sentences – to those who prove most brutal.”
“If a Palestinian state was established, it’s hard to see how this ‘pay to slay’ policy wouldn’t put them on the state sponsor of terrorism list,” he observed.
Royce asked Carmon – whose organization’s monitoring over almost two decades has included a focus on Palestinian institutions and official media – what proportion of the annual P.A. budget is used for “these salaries to terrorists.”
Carmon said it was hard to be certain, as the P.A. budgetary process is opaque, but judging from what is known, and what has been made public by the media, “it would be about ten percent.”
“About ten percent goes to reward people who carry out attacks, stabbings and shootings of the Israeli population,” Royce summarized.
The U.S. gave $338 million in foreign assistance to the P.A. in fiscal year 2015, according to State Department data. The Obama administration plans $442 million in aid in FY 2016 (of which $47.7 million has been spent so far) and $363.5 million in FY 2017.
Of the $338 million spend in FY 2015, the lion’s share went to education and social services ($161 million), health ($63.8 million) and economic development ($49.5 million).
Congress moves to close loophole
In a bid to stave off pressure from donor countries, P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas in 2014 ordered that the payments no longer be made through the P.A.’s prisoner affairs ministry but through a commission of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Carmon noted that the offices remain the same, are headed by the same official under a new job title, and that the funds come from donor countries, via the P.A.
Abbas is head of both the P.A. and the PLO. (His four-year term as P.A. president formally ended seven-and-a-half years ago, but he remains in place.)
Wednesday’s committee hearing was entitled “Financially Rewarding Terrorism in the West Bank.”
Royce said that with one-third of the P.A. budget coming from foreign aid, it was up to donor nations – the U.S. and European allies – to “help stop the bloodshed.”
“So far, the international community has failed to effectively use its leverage,” he said.
Royce also said the Obama administration in recent years “has been hesitant to hold the PA accountable – yet has consistently pressured Israel.”
On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that his government would begin withholding a portion of the tax revenue which it sends to the P.A., to equal the amount paid to terrorists and their families
The U.S. government has been making equivalent deductions from aid in recent years – as a result of Congressional action.
An amendment to FY 2015 State and Foreign Operations appropriations legislation, enacted into law, reduced funding for the P.A. by the amount that it pays out “for acts of terrorism.”
That prompted Abbas’ 2014 shift of terrorist payout responsibilities from the P.A. to the PLO.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who co-sponsored that amendment, last week described Abbas’ move as “simply a shell game designed to avoid cutoff of aid.”
In a bid to close the loophole, FY 2017 State and Foreign Operations appropriations legislation includes a provision including the PLO, and any successor or affiliation organizations, in the provision that up to now has applied only to the P.A.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill last Wednesday.
Since a wave of Palestinian violence began last September, 40 Israelis have been killed in 155 stabbing, 96 shooting and 45 car-ramming attacks, as well as a bus bombing, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.
Last week Abbas’ Fatah faction of the PLO described a Palestinian who stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl a “martyr.” Hallel Ariel was killed in her bed.
Last March, Fatah hailed as a “heroic martyr” a terrorist killed during an attack in which he stabbed to death U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, and wounded another nine people, in Jaffa, Tel Aviv.