Analysis by PMW has found that the payments, totaling at least 512 million shekels ($156,280,000), were rolled into the budget for “PLO institutions.” This means that some 3.25% of the PA’s total budget was spent on terrorists salaries alone last year.
The budget line marks a change from the PA’s financial reporting in 2018 and 2019, in which the payments were listed against the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs (later the Commission for Detainees’ Affairs). However, the sum is in line with those years, in which NIS 502 million and NIS 517 million were paid out respectively.
In 2020, the budget category of the “Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs” was removed altogether, yet statements made by PA and PLO officials throughout the year confirmed that the PA continued to pay hundreds of millions of shekels a year in terror rewards.
Under the budget listing of PLO “transfer expenditures” the PA’s payments through the PLO rose more than 300% in 2020, from 161 million shekels to 673 million shekels. The additional expenditure – 512 million shekels – is the minimum amount the PA paid to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists in 2020.
Consequently, it was clear that the PA had decided to pay terrorists in a roundabout way so that there would be no reference to the salaries at all in their budget. The change was likely made to avoid international condemnation for the payments in a year in which the PA has received extra aid payments to help mitigate the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Palestinian Media Watch has called on the International community to demand that the PA specify in future reports where the monies given to the PLO are going, for example: “PLO transfers to Fatah,” “PLO transfers to PFLP,” “PLO payments of salaries to prisoners,” etc. This is not only necessary in the interest of transparency, but it is critical in order to monitor and eventually stop the PA’s ongoing incentivizing and funding of terror.
Maurice Hirsch, Adv., Director of Legal Strategies at Palestinian Media Watch and co-author of the report commented: “The PA’s 2020 terror reward payments prove at least two things. Firstly, that the PA believes that a simple accounting trick can fool the world and world leaders into believing that the leopard has changed its spots and is no longer incentivizing and rewarding terror. Secondly, that despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, the PA’s priorities were, and remain, paying salaries to terrorists, including mass murderers, even over providing basic medical supplies for its population.”
Further proof that the PA payments to the PLO include payments to the terrorist prisoners was found in the PA budget monthly reports on PLO “transfer expenditures” for 2020.
As the chart below shows, the monthly “transfer expenditures” which include salaries to terrorists were similar from January through November 2020. However, in December the expenditure suddenly spiked, corresponding to the PA’s announcement that it was paying the salaries of the terrorist prisoners for 3 months.
This was necessary because on December 30, 2020, Israeli Anti-Terror legislation came into force, which, inter alia, prohibited any banking transaction whose purpose is the payment of a reward for an act of terror. This meant that the PA could no longer use the banks operating in the PA for the payment of the terror salaries. Fearing it would not be able to pay the prisoners their salaries, it advanced the payments for January and February.
The payments are made to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners, with the amount awarded increasing year on year according to the length of jail term. Under the scheme, a terrorist who has served 30 years or more is awarded some NIS 12,000 a month, approximately four times the average salary for a worker in the Palestinian territories, making terrorism a lucrative career choice.
This is not the first time the PA has attempted to hide the terrorist prisoners’ salaries.
In 2014, after a series of PMW events in European parliaments and meetings with members of the US Congress exposing the PA’s terror rewards resulted in threats from the donors to cut all funding to the PA, the PA stopped paying salaries to terrorists directly. It closed its Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and transferred the terrorist payments to a new PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs.
At the time, PMW’s report “The PA’s billion dollar fraud” exposed the PA’s effort to deceive the world with a cosmetic change concealing its terror payments, which brought condemnation and outrage from the donor countries.
However, Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch pointed out that, despite this condemnation, payments are still being made by the international community, notably the EU, to the PA.
“Whereas European countries are known to punish with sanctions those governments that spend even a small part of their budget supporting terror, the Palestinian Authority has a unique standing of being able to spend far more than 3.25% of its budget funding terror and not only is not punished but it remains a major recipient of international aid,” Marcus said.