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Funding terror

The Palestinian leadership is now hoping that the Biden administration will turn a blind eye to the ‘pay-for-slay’ program and allow them to continue funding terrorists and their families.

By Bassam Tawil, The Gatestone Institute

The Biden administration’s decision to resume unconditional US financial aid to the Palestinians will allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue rewarding terrorists who kill Jews, and sometimes, as “collateral damage,” others.

Last week, the Biden administration reportedly confirmed to Congress that the PA has continued to use international aid money to reward terrorists and their families.

The Biden administration, however, emphasized that the PA’s actions will not impact its plan to renew funding to the Palestinians.

A non-public State Department report revealed that the Palestinians distributed at least $151 million in 2019 on their “pay-to-slay” program, in which international aid dollars are spent to support imprisoned terrorists and their families. Financial statements also revealed that at least $191 million was lavished on “deceased Palestinians referred to as ‘martyrs.'”

Earlier this month, The National disclosed that the Biden administration was looking to “reset” relations with the Palestinians with a plan that includes a “full range of economic, security and humanitarian assistance programs, including through the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).”

A memo drafted by the State Department claims that the Biden administration was holding talks with the Palestinians “to obtain a Palestinian commitment to end payments to individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”

The memo, however, does not specifically say that the renewed US funding would be conditioned on ending the Palestinians’ “pay-to-slay” program. Instead, the Biden administration is only seeking a “commitment” from the Palestinian leadership to end the stipends.

It is likely that PA President Mahmoud Abbas may make such a “commitment” to the Biden administration. In reality, however, Abbas has announced over the past few years that he would never stop the payments to the imprisoned terrorists and the families of the “martyrs.”

In the world of Abbas and the Palestinians, any Palestinian who is killed while carrying out a terror attack against Jews is a martyr and hero.

“The Palestinian Authority will continue to pay the allowances to the prisoners and the families of the martyrs,” Abbas has repeatedly assured his people in the past three years.

“We will not deduct or suspend the allowances. Even if we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs. We consider the martyrs and prisoners as our stars.”

Abbas’s remarks came in response to the Israeli government’s decision to deduct the amount of money that the PA gives to terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians each month.

Abbas’s remarks also came in response to the Taylor Force Act, signed into US law in 2018, which mandates stopping US financial aid to the Palestinians until Palestinian terrorists and their families are no longer paid. The legislation is named after Taylor Force, a graduate of West Point and a US Army veteran of battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Force was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist during a study trip to Israel in March 2016.

While the Biden administration is waiting for a “commitment” from the PA leadership, Palestinian officials say that the payments to the terrorists and their families will continue.

In December 2020, the PA paid in advance the allowances for three months (until the end of February) to avoid penalties by Israel and the US.

The PA’s move came after the Israeli authorities threatened to take measures against any person “who conducts any transaction with assets, including money, in order to facilitate, further, fund, or reward a person for carrying out terror-related offences.”

Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli research organization known internationally for its in-depth research of Palestinian society, had also warned the heads of banks that if they continued to provide bank accounts facilitating the PA paying salaries to terrorists, they could face personal criminal liability as well as expose their banks to civil lawsuits from terror victims.

The threat prompted Palestinian banks to refuse serving as a channel for delivering the payments to the terrorists and their families.

The Palestinian leadership is now hoping that the Biden administration will turn a blind eye to the “pay-for-slay’ program and allow them to continue funding terrorists and their families.

Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the PA’s Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Authority, was quoted on March 11 as saying that the payments will be processed through Palestinian post offices as of next month. The move, he said, was aimed at avoiding penalties against the banks.

“The Palestinian leadership is in contact with the American administration, the Europeans and the Israeli authorities, in order to find a solution to resume the payment of the salaries,” Abu Bakr said. “We have 64 Palestinian employees who are working around the clock to solve this issue. The issue of the prisoners and the families of the martyrs is a sacred one for us.”

The Palestinians are letting the world know that the payments to the terrorists will definitely continue, just not through the banks. The Palestinians are trying to make it look as if this is a problem related only to the method of payment, and not the fact that the money is going to reward terrorists for murdering, or attempting to murder, Jews.

It is clear that any Palestinian “commitment” to cease rewarding terrorists will not be worth the paper it is written on. Abbas and his henchmen are telling the Biden administration one thing in English and their people the opposite in Arabic. They have no intention whatsoever of stopping the blood-soaked payments. In order to ensure that they continue, they are funneling the terror funds through the Palestinian post offices.

For Abbas, the terrorists are the superstars of the Palestinian people. Abbas regularly praises terrorists, and even receives them in his office. “The Palestinian prisoners are heroes and freedom fighters,” according to Abbas. “We will not submit to any pressure to abandon them and their families.”

The Biden administration needs to listen to what Abbas and Palestinian leaders are telling their people in Arabic. Such information would puncture its rosy picture that the Palestinian leadership can be convinced to end its financial and moral support for terrorists.

If the Biden team wants to know what is happening on the ground, they should send their representatives to post offices in the West Bank next month to observe how the terrorists and their families are standing in line to receive cash from the Palestinian leadership. If and when the Biden administration resumes financial aid to Abbas, those who will resume collecting US taxpayer dollars are the terrorists.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

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