Sahaban Altiti, who committed a deadly terror attack south of Hebron in 2015, killing Avraham Asher Hasno. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

This could be the first time in over a decade that the PA did not pay salaries to terrorists, with banks appearing to buck the pay-for-slay policy for fear of legal ramifications.

By Maurice Hirsch, Adv., Palestinian Media Watch

Ignoring a directive from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to all banks in the PA areas that they must accept money for payment of salaries to the accounts of terrorists and families of killed terrorists, at least four banks have refused to follow the PA’s dictates.

This was exposed by PA Director of the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr yesterday. All the banks are refusing to allow these groups to use their ATM cards.

This comes two and a half months after Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) sent letters warning the banks operating in the PA-controlled areas of potential criminal and civil liability if they continued aiding and abetting the PA to pay rewards to terrorists.

Five weeks Palestinian civil servants waited for the PA to pay them their May salaries.

While the PA usually pays its employees in the first half of every month, until July 3, the PA had not paid any salaries to its employees for the month of May. The delay in the payment was ostensibly a result of the renewed refusal to receive the tax monies Israel collects and transfers to the PA, but was also potentially connected to the PA’s difficulties to pay the terrorist prisoners.

May 2020 could have been the first month in over a decade in which the PA did not pay salaries to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners. This was not the result of a change in PA policy, but rather, as PMW has shown, demonstrates that for the PA, the terrorist prisoners are equally entitled to their salaries as the rest of the PA’s law abiding, non-terrorist, employees.

Banks Refuse to Cooperate

On July 3, the PA paid all of its employees, including the terrorist prisoners and released prisoners, their salary for the month of May.
While the PA was determined to pay the salaries of the terrorist prisoners, it would appear that the banks operating in the PA-controlled areas were less than fully co-operative.

Confirming that the PA had paid the salaries of the terrorists and describing the difficulties imposed by the banks, the Director of the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr said in the Al Quds daily, “The families of the Martyrs, the wounded, and the released prisoners can withdraw their salaries directly from the banks, and not via the ATMs… The ATMs no longer accept ATM cards from the aforementioned groups, and that they all must contact the banks directly in order to withdraw their salaries, which were deposited last week together with the salaries of the public sector employees.”

In a separate report, Abu Bakr noted that four of the banks had not transferred the salaries of some of the terrorists. He added the demand that the banks transfer the salaries and reinstate the ATM cards, as contrary actions breach agreements the PA had ostensibly reached with the banks.

In April 2020, PMW sent warning letters to all the banks operating in the PA-controlled areas. PMW warned that new anti-terror legislation promulgated by the IDF Military Commander for Judea and Samaria, made the performance of any bank transaction connected to the payment of rewards for acts of terrorism, a criminal offense. PMW added that if the banks wished to avoid both criminal and civil liability, they would have to stop providing the platform and aiding and abetting the PA to pay the salaries to the terrorists.

The banks responded to PMW by writing to PA Minister of Finance, Shukri Bishara, on May 7, 2020, saying that considering the “risks to which the banks will be exposed as a result of the presence of these accounts [of prisoners, released prisoners, and families of Martyrs and prisoners]… All of the banks hereby ask Your Honor to stop transferring any sums into these accounts. The banks will transfer the balances in these accounts to the Ministry of Finance’s account.”

While the PA has decided to try and circumvent the anti-terror legislation by creating a new bank that will serve the imprisoned and released terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists (so-called “Martyrs”), that bank has not yet been established.

This is not the first time Abbas has refused the tax monies. In 2019 Abbas made a similar decision following the implementation of Israel’s Anti Pay-For-Slay Law which penalizes the PA for its terror reward payments. Then, the PA continued paying the terrorists their full salaries, but cut by 50% the salaries of its legitimate employees.

On numerous other occasions Abbas has promised that even if the PA has only one penny left in its coffers, he will pay it to the terrorist prisoners before anyone else.

In reality, while the PA’s coffers are far from empty – the PA’s income for the first quarter of 2020 rose by 1.25 billion shekels as compared to the same period in 2019; and EU aid to the PA, earmarked for the payment of the salaries to legitimate PA employees, has continued without disruption – the PA nonetheless paid the terrorists the same percentage of their salaries as the rest of the PA’s legitimate employees.

Luckily for the PA, the terrorists and the PA banks, one of the first decisions of Israel’s new Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, was to temporarily suspend the force of the new law criminalizing the banks participation in the payment of the terror rewards. As a result of this decision, the PA could pay the salaries, via the banks, with impunity.

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