Just days after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a full resumption of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian government, fresh disclosures unveiled the Palestinians are still using international contributions to pay wages to terrorists who have killed Israeli citizens.
Congress initially froze assistance to the Palestinian Authority in 2017 after it became evident to the government was expending a large portion of the fund on a “pay to slay” program, which delivers money to imprisoned terrorists and their families. While a bipartisan majority of Congress approved the bill, far left factions of the Democratic Party have been pressing for the assistance to carry on without conditions that payments to terrorists cease.
Biden pledged to continue U.S. assistance just days before a watchdog group discovered the Palestinian government has continued using international assistance to make these payments.
“I will re-open the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, find a way to re-open the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump administration stopped,” Biden said last week in a statement.
Biden inaccurately claimed it was the Trump administration that spearheaded the aid suspension. Congress mandated the suspension in 2018 when it passed the Taylor Force Act, legislation that necessitated the Palestinian government to end compensation programs for terrorists.
The Trump administration did end funding to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency, which has long faced allegations of endorsing anti-Israel educational materials and helps conceal the terrorist activity.
Reports by an Israeli watchdog group implied that the Palestinian government has carried on “pay to slay” payments in secret. An attempt the watchdog stated is meant to confuse the international community as it looks to account for how the fund was expended.
“The Palestinian Authority’s monthly financial documents for 2020 demonstrate that the PA is, again, attempting to conceal its monthly wage payments to the Palestinian terrorist prisoners from the international community,” Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli group that monitors the PA, reported last week.
“Its monthly budget performance reports for 2018 and 2019 openly recorded the salaries to terrorist prisoners as expenditures of the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. However, since the beginning of 2020, there has been no listing for the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.”
After reviewing the PA’s budget documents, PMW ruled “the PA is still paying the monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners, but is attempting to conceal them by recording them under a different category.”
This budgetary strategy is meant to conceal these payments from the public, despite several remarks from Palestinian leaders that the “pay to slay” program will never be canceled.
“There is something that the Americans are telling us to stop—the salaries of the martyrs and the martyrs’ families,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated in 2018 when the freeze in aid was being debated in Congress.
“Of course, we categorically reject this. Under any circumstances, we will not permit anyone to damage the families of the prisoners, the wounded, and the martyrs. They are our children, and they are our families. They honor us, and we will continue to pay them before the living.”
Instead of recording allocations to the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, the PA has shifted more than 1 million Israeli shekels—just under $300,000—to “PLO institutions,” a reference to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s budget.
“There has been an enormous rise in the amount the PA transfers to the ‘PLO institutions’—an amount equivalent to what the PA used to allocate to the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs,” based on PMW. “In other words, the PA is persisting in funding the wages to terrorists but is recording it, not as a direct PA expense, but concealing it under the PLO expenditures.”