Three Ways the PA Tried to Hide its Terror Reward Payments in 2021

February 10, 2022

22 min read

  1. Integrating released terrorists into PA ministries to deceive the international community

  2. Developing a new payment system to circumvent the banks who refuse to provide services to terrorists

  3. Manipulating published PA financial reports to mask the payments

Palestinian Media Watch estimates that in 2021 the PA spent no less than 841 million shekels ($270.75 million) paying rewards to terrorists. 600 million shekels ($193.16) were paid to terrorist prisoners and released terrorists and another 241 million shekels ($77.59 million), at least, were paid to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists.

In 2021, despite the international pressure and despite its alleged financial difficulties, the Palestinian Authority continued to implement its “Pay-for-Slay” policy, showing particular cunning in its efforts to hide these terror reward payments. According to the head of the PA-funded PLO Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs, in 2021 the PA paid between 48 and 50 million shekels, every month, to terrorist prisoners and release terrorists. The payments were additional to the PA payments to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists (so-called “Martyrs”), which PMW has estimated to be over 20 million shekels a month.

The PA’s efforts to hide the terror reward payments took three main forms: Reorganizing the PA payments to the released terrorists; establishing a new payment system through which to pay the terrorists; and distorting its openly published financial records, to hide the terror rewards.

Reorganizing the PA payments to the released terrorists

The 2004 PA Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners and the regulations adopted to implement the law, guarantee both terrorist prisoners and released terrorists a monthly salary from the PA. After the PA identified that the payment of salaries to the released terrorists was particularly condemned by the donor countries, instead of abolishing the payments, the PA decided to integrate the released terrorists into the PA ministries, thereby, pretending the payments were legitimate salary expenses.

As part of this program, the PA disbursed the salary payments to 7,500 released terrorists, integrating thousands of terrorists into the PA ministries and retiring thousands of others. Hundreds of released terrorists were even placed in positions in the PA security apparatus. Exposing that these were neither real jobs nor legitimate salaries for employment, PMW showed that the salary scales were not based on the terrorists’ new positions, but rather on artificial pay scales linked to the time the terrorist spent in prison. The terrorists “retired” by the PA were guaranteed 100% of their “pension salary.”

Establishing a new payment system through which to pay the terrorists

In March 2020, PMW warned the banks operating in the PA controlled areas that the Israeli anti-terror law outlaws the PA payments to terrorists and that if the banks continue to provide services to the PA and the terrorists they could potentially bare both criminal and civil responsibility. As a direct result of PMW’s letter, the banks closed the accounts of 35,000 terrorists causing turmoil and disrupting the payments.

In 2021, the PA needed to invest both time and money trying to find a way to pay its terror rewards without using the domestic banking system. At first, the PA decided to make the payments through the PA post offices, but had to rethink the idea when the terrorists and their families complained that the process of waiting on line for cash payments made them feel like “beggars.” To improve the terror reward payment mechanism, the PA decided to issue the terrorists and their families special ATM cards to be used at designated machines.

Distorting its openly published financial records to hide the terror rewards

Despite the fact that the terror reward payments are clearly a major PA expense (estimated to total over 841 million shekels / $270 million), in 2021, similar to 2020, the PA continued to ensure that there was no clear reference to them in the PA’s monthly budget performance reports.

While PMW demonstrated that the PA terror reward payments were paid in 2020, predominantly, through the budgetary provision of transfers to the “PLO institutions”, the picture in 2021 is more complicated. Even though the PA continued in 2021 to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to the “PLO Institutions,” because the PA integrated many of the released terrorists into fictitious PA positions these sums do not cover all the PA terror rewards to the released terrorists. Rather, a large sum of the terror rewards are now incorporated into the regular salaries and wages expenses of the PA ministries into which the terrorists were placed and in the PA pension payments, and therefore are now hidden from PMW and our reports to the Israeli authorities and donor countries.

Similar to previous years, the 2021 PA payments to the wounded terrorists and families of the dead terrorists continued to be hidden in the PA’s Ministry of Social Affairs expenditure category.

Unequivocal support for terrorists

The exceptional efforts undertaken by the PA to hide its terror reward payments are reflective of two realities. The PA constantly repeats the commitment of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that even if the PA is left with only one penny, it will be paid to the terrorists. This commitment is not an empty slogan, but rather conveys a fundamental truth about the PA priorities.

PA TV narrator: “Armed with the power of the right, adhering to the national principles, defying the political pressures, defending Jerusalem… Despite the blackmail, he defends the right of the Martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners.”

Mahmoud Abbas: “A blessing is sent to our loyal Martyrs, our prisoners, and their families who are standing firm and bearing their suffering with patience. We say to them, to the families of the Martyrs, that we will defend their rights regardless of the price we’ll have to pay. I won’t submit to what Israel has requested. I won’t submit. Even if I’m left with one penny, I’ll pay it to the families of the Martyrs, to the prisoners, and to the wounded, and I won’t withhold this from them.”

[Official PA TV, June 4 (twice), 5 (twice), 6 (four times), 9 (twice), 11 (twice), 12, 15, 16 (twice), 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 26, 28, 30, July 2, 3 (twice), 4, 6, 7, 8, 13 (twice), 17 (twice) 23, 26, Aug. 9 (three times), 13, 14, 20, 21, 29, 30 (twice), Sept. 26, Oct. 31, 2021, Jan. 30, 2022]

Having said that, while the PA and its leadership wholeheartedly believe in the “Pay-for-Slay” policy and do everything in their power to implement it, they are nonetheless aware that since PMW exposed the terror reward payments, the policy is almost universally condemned by donor countries and must therefore be hidden to the greatest extent possible. For the PA, the effort to hide the payments must be maintained, even if it means intentionally deceiving the international community.

The following is a more in depth explanation of the above subjects.

Reorganizing the PA payments to the released terrorists

The 2004 PA Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners (The Prisoners’ Law) and the regulations adopted by the PA governments to implement the law, guarantee both monthly salary payments to terrorist prisoners (section 7 of the law) and released terrorists. The list of the benefits and payments the PA pays to the released prisoners were added in an amendment to the Prisoners Law in 2013.

A summary of new section 3B of the Prisoners Law and the implementing regulations, as regards the direct PA payments to the released terrorists, provides the following picture:

  • Any terrorist who spent a year or more in prison is entitled to a one-time release grant that increases according to the length of their sentence.
  • The PA is obligated to provide jobs for released terrorists and they are given priority in annual appointments to PA positions.
  • The pay scale of released terrorists integrated into PA positions is based on the length of their sentence.
  • If no PA position is available, the released terrorist will simply receive a payment from the PA that varies according to the length of their sentence:
  1. Released terrorists who spent 1 – 5 years in prison are entitled to receive unemployment benefits for a period equivalent to their prison sentence.
  2. Released terrorists who spent 5- 10 years in prison are entitled to receive a fixed monthly salary.
  3. Released terrorists who spent more than 10 years in prison receive a monthly salary according to the length of their sentence. In some instances, the salary paid to the released terrorists is the equivalent of the salary paid to a PA minister. In all cases, the salary is much higher than the average wage. Aside from the time-based factor, the only other condition to receive this payment is that if the PA actually asked the released terrorist to come and do a real job, he was indeed required to perform that job.

On multiple occasions, the head of the PA funded PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, has stated that the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists amount to 48 – 50 million shekels a month.

“The number of released prisoners is approximately 7,500, and the number of prisoners in the prisons is 4,200. They are receiving between 48-50 million shekels each month, not including the Martyrs and wounded.”

[Raya, independent Palestinian news network, May 2, 2021]

“According to Abu Bakr… the overall cost of the prisoners and released prisoners’ [salaries] is approximately 50 million shekels ($15.6 million) per month…”

[Anadolu, Turkish state-run news agency, Dec. 29, 2020]

“We pay around NIS 50 million ($15 million) per month in salaries.”

[Times of Israel, March 4, 2021]

According to PMW calculations, the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners amount to approximately 20 million shekels per month. Since the entire monthly PA expenditure on the payment of salaries to the terrorist prisoners and released prisoners, amounts to 48 to 50 million shekels per month, it follows that the PA payments to the released terrorists are between 28 – 30 million shekels per month.

In 2021 the PA had a multiple incentives to hide these payments.

In 2018, Israel passed the “Law to freeze money that the Palestinian Authority has paid in connection with terrorism from the money transferred to it by the government of Israel, 2018” (The Freeze Law). According to the law, any sum that the PA pays to terrorists is deducted from the taxes Israel collects and transfers to the PA. Based on the law, Israel has already deducted close to 1.6 billion shekels (a sum equivalent to the PA payments to terrorists in 2018, 2019 and 2020) from the tax income. Clearly the PA is under the impression that hiding its payments to the terrorists will minimize the effect and the deductions of Israel’s law.

In parallel, since PMW exposed the PA terror reward policy in 2011, foreign aid to the PA has plummeted by 90%. While donor countries have, in general, lacked the moral courage to openly condemn the PA for its terror payments, in practice they have nonetheless considerably scaled back their financial aid to the PA.

At the same time, the PA has engaged in efforts to appease the US Biden administration which does not see the PA terror payments in a favorable manner. The ability to show “real reform” in the PA’s terror payment policy is one of these efforts.

Addressing these considerations, while simultaneously trying to explain the difficulties the PA encountered paying the terrorist salaries, Abu Bakr claimed:

“The Palestinian leadership is holding contacts at the highest levels with the American administration, with the Europeans, and with the Israeli authorities in order to find a solution that will allow the renewal of paying the salaries of the prisoners in the occupation’s prison and the released prisoners.”

[alquds.com, website of the paper Al-Quds, March 11, 2021]

Accordingly, in order to hide the full extent of the PA payments to terrorists from both Israel and the international community, the PA implemented a process to artificially remove the released terrorists remove the released terrorists from its terror reward payments.

While initiated in 2020, the plan was implemented in 2021. As part of the plan, the PA set up a committee of experts that divided the released terrorists into two categories: Released terrorists who would be integrated into the PA Ministries; and released terrorists who would be put out on pension. In the context of a wider interview on the subject of the payment of the terror rewards, Abu Bakr explained:

“Regarding dividing the [released] prisoners among the PA’s civil and military institutions, he said that there is a joint committee comprised of an expert team from the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, national insurance, the Tanzim (i.e., Fatah terror faction), the directorate, and the General Personnel Council, which is working on this issue.

Abu Bakr noted that the committee includes more than 60 employees who are working to sort the cases, and that a good part of the work has been done on this process.”

[Sada News, Palestinian news agency, March 6, 2021]

Speaking just days later, Abu Bakr elaborated on the workings of the committee:

“A team of 64 employees in the commission and in other institutions is working even on vacation days to arrange this matter, which is sacred from our perspective.”

[alquds.com, website of the paper Al-Quds, March 11, 2021]

Providing numbers for reference and general PA intentions regarding the fate of the released terrorists, Abu Bakr added:

“The released prisoners who were assigned to the [PA] security and military forces as part of arranging their status – 7,500 in number – will receive a payment according to their new financial limitations in these institutions… Approximately 1,500 released prisoners suffering from health problems will not be asked to come to work in the forces, while those aged 60 or older will be put on pension. Those under this age will be integrated into the institutions to which they were assigned.”

[alquds.com, website of the paper Al-Quds, March 11, 2021]

Two months later, in May, Abu Bakr updated that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas had apparently lowered the pension age of the terrorist prisoners from 60, to 50, and approved reclassifying 3,500 released terrorists as pensioners. Abu Bakr added that 300 released terrorists had been integrated into the PA Security Forces:

“Regarding the distribution of the released prisoners between the state institutions and their integration as regular employees, he said that… a number of days ago [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas] signed on [putting] approximately 3,500 released prisoners over the age of 50 on pension, in addition to released prisoners with a ‘medical disability.’

Abu Bakr said that 300 released prisoners have been integrated in the [PA] Security Forces, and he noted that they may be paid salaries next month, since this month it was not possible to pay them. He added: ‘The released prisoners were promised that they would all be absorbed [in the PA institutions], and likewise for the pensioners, at the beginning of May [2021], but this will take a certain amount of time, perhaps until the end of the month.’”

[Raya, independent Palestinian news network, May 2, 2021]

Wrapping up the last details of the move, the “Supreme PA presidential quintuple committee”, which included representatives of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, the PA Ministry of Finance, the Commission of Organization and Administration, the General Personnel Council, and the Pension Authority, announced:

“The supreme [PA] presidential quintuple committee appointed to take care of the released prisoners’ affairs completed its meeting yesterday afternoon, Thursday [June 10, 2021], which was meant to cover all the details relating to arranging their status.

The committee explained that everything concerning the prisoners and their affairs will be taken care of by the Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs alone, and that paying the pension salary of the released prisoners at a rate of 100% was proposed by the quintuple committee and approved by President Mahmoud Abbas with the blessings of the government.

The committee added that medical insurance is ensured for all the released prisoner pensioners, and that the released prisoner pensioners will be issued a monthly salary slip. The released prisoner pensioners’ social allowances are also ensured for their wives and children as well. The committee said that any additional period of imprisonment will be added to the released prisoner’s years of pension, and that the file of a released prisoner pensioner who passes away will be transferred for reexamination in order to guarantee a dignified life for his family.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 11, 2021]

The PA hopes that this plan will help hide tens of millions of monthly terror reward payments. Instead of openly paying the released terrorists the salary they are guaranteed according to the PA Law of Prisoners, directly from the PA funded PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, the PA is now hiding these payments as part of the regular monthly PA wage bill for all its legitimate employees.

Specifically designed to hide its terror reward payments, the PA move should worry international donors. As an alternative to funding the general budget of the PA, many donor countries designate their aid for specified purposes. For example, while the 2018 Taylor Force Act (TFA) conditioned much of the US aid to the PA on the abolition of the PA “Pay-for-Slay” policy, it did not prevent the flow of US aid to the PA for security purposes. Since one can only assume that this deceit is not a one off move, and since the PA is unlikely to again openly admit that it is deceiving the world by placing the released terrorists in positions in the PA ministries, having now integrated some of the released terrorists directly into the PA Security Forces, in theory, the US “security aid” could potentially be used for the very purpose prohibited in TFA: The payment of financial incentives and rewards to terrorists.

A similar consequence could arise when the European Union contributes, as it does, to the payment of PA pensions. After the implementation of the new policy, there are now thousands of released terrorists who are receiving their terror reward payments as “pensioners.”

Developing a new payment system to circumvent the banks who refuse to provide services to terrorists

In February 2020, many of the provisions of Israel’s 2016 Anti-Terrorism Law were adopted to Judea and Samaria. Among other provisions, the adopted law prohibited the payment of any reward for the commission of a terror offence. While initially meant to come into force in May 2020, for various reasons, the law only came into force at the end of December 2020.

In anticipation of the law coming into force, in April 2020 PMW wrote to the banks operating in the PA controlled areas. In the letter, PMW warned that the new anti-terror provisions would potentially expose the banks to both civil and criminal liability, if they did not cease aiding and assisting the PA to reward the terrorists. The banks responded by closing the accounts of 35,000 terrorists.

In order to circumvent the banks and continue paying the terrorists, the PA initially decided to establish a new and independent terror bank.

By the end of 2020, as the Anti-Terror Law was about to come into full force and after the PA came to the realization that the terror bank was not a viable option, the PA decided to bring forward the payment of the December salaries and pre-pay the January-February 2021, salaries. The move was designed to buy time for the PA to develop alternative avenues of payment.

Announcing the pre-payment, Abu Bakr stated:

“Salaries for three months will be paid before the end of this month [December 2020], in order to avoid the occupation’s decision to punish the banks.”

[Safa, independent Palestinian news agency, Dec. 27, 2020]

Another report added:

“The Palestinian government is inclined to pay the prisoners salaries for three months, following the banks’ refusal to accept their salaries after Dec. 31 [2020] – the last date set by the occupation army to begin imposing sanctions against the banks that are managing prisoners’ accounts.

The [PA] Ministry of Finance has expressed willingness to pay salaries for three months (December, January, February) [parentheses in source], and that it is also examining the possibility of paying the March salaries.

The prisoners’ salaries will be transferred before this Wednesday [Dec. 30, 2020]”

[Quds News Network, Palestinian news website, Dec. 27, 2020]

A report in early 2021 summed up the turmoil created by PMW to disrupt the payment of the PA’s terror rewards. The report added an overview of the avenues being considered by the PA to circumvent the Anti-Terror Law and the absence of any concrete solution:

“The search continues for mechanisms to pay the salaries of the prisoners in the occupation’s prison and the released prisoners and to pay the allowances of the Martyrs’ families, after the Israeli military order came into effect determining that measures will be taken against the Palestinian banks if they continue to pay these salaries…

The implementation of the Israeli military order, in the shadow of the absence of an official Palestinian position or any kind of solution for the payment of the prisoners’ salaries other than through the banks, will turn the prisoners and the banks into victims of this order…

Recently a number of ideas have been raised in order to evade the Israeli military order, including appointing the released prisoners as employees in the PA institutions and turning the salaries of the prisoners in the occupation’s prison into allowances that will be paid through the [PA] Ministry of Welfare. A decision was made to establish the ‘Independence Bank’ as a national state bank in order to protect the banks from any kind of persecution by Israel.

As of now, no new instructions have been issued by the [PA] Monetary Authority on this matter in the shadow of the absence of an official position, which is liable to cause the banks to stand alone against the Israeli military order and any measure that will be taken as a result of it.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Jan. 5, 2021]

Regarding the new bank, Abu Bakr added:

“One of the options is to establish the ‘Independence Bank,’ but it appears that this will be useless because there are threats by the occupation against the bank and against the banks that will have connections with it, and because it has not been given a license, which prevents its work from starting…”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Jan. 5, 2021]

As February 2021 ended, and the timer on the grace period bought by the December pre-payments came to an end, Abu Bakr updated that despite the efforts, no solution was on the horizon.

“Efforts are being made by the Palestinian [PA] presidency and [PA] Prime Minister [Muhammad Shtayyeh] to find alternatives for payment. He noted that the salaries to the prisoners will be paid whether inside prison or outside of it at the first opportunity, [but] there are no comprehensive solutions for this issue as of now.”

[Sada News, Palestinian news agency, March 6, 2021]

Days later Abu Bakr appeared to be positive that a solution was in reach and that the PA terrorist salaries would again be paid through the banks:

“We hope that the payment of the salaries via the banks will be renewed in April [2021].’ He noted: ‘A team of 64 employees in the commission and in other institutions is working even on vacation days to arrange this matter, which is sacred from our perspective.’…

He emphasized that the commission is insisting that the prisoners’ salaries be paid via the banks and not in any other way, and expressed hope that the Palestinian leadership will succeed in reaching an agreement on the matter with the aforementioned parties.”

[alquds.com, website of the paper Al-Quds, March 11, 2021]

Despite Abu Bakr’s optimism, since the banks continued to reject participation in the payment of the terror rewards, the PA decided to make the payments through the PA post offices.

“Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr announced how the salaries of the prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be paid this month [May 2021]. He confirmed that the salaries in Gaza [will be paid] the way they were last month, through a number of authorized money changers.

Regarding the West Bank, Abu Bakr told [the independent Palestinian news network] Raya: ‘We have received promises from the [PA] Monetary Authority and the post office that this month the payment will be carried out through ATMs and not through lists. We refuse that the payment will be carried out through them again.’”

[Raya, independent Palestinian news network, May 2, 2021]

Criticizing the decision, infamous terror-mom Latifa Abu Hmeid, the mother of six murderers – five of whom were sentenced to life in prison while the last one was killed during Israel’s attempted arrest of him for his involvement in the murder of an Israel Security Agency operative – complained:

“With all respect for [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas]… through you [PA TV] I also call on the president, regarding the salaries of the prisoners and Martyrs – [the salary payments via] the post office are unbearable. The post office is unbearable. It is the worst thing for the families of the prisoners and Martyrs. They are like beggars. I went from 8:00 a.m., just imagine, I stayed until 3:00 p.m., and I presented my identity card and did not receive the prisoner’s salary. I went home. This is suffering. I hope through you [PA TV] that they will find a solution for this, a designated bank or anything, because there are old people, older than us, and they are suffering. By Allah, this is unbearable, unbearable.”

[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, June 6, 2021]

So as not to anger the terrorists and their families, the PA decided to again change direction.

On June 14, 2021 the PA cabinet met, and inter alia, decided:

“Approval of direct purchase to money transfer services that includes feeding ATMs and banks fund from AMAN Exchange Company for Cash and Valuables Transportation and Financial Services.”

[Website of the PA Cabinet, June 14, 2021]

Soon after the decision of the cabinet, the PA announced that the terror payments would be made by providing the terrorists and their families special ATM cards to be used in designated ATM machines. At a press conference launching the new system, Abu Bakr explained:

“In cooperation with the Ministry of Communications, the [PA] Monetary Authority, and the Ministry of Finance, we have succeeded in reaching a simpler mechanism that protects the dignity of the prisoners and their families. Now the prisoners’ family members can receive their salaries and allowances without crowding, effort, and [wasting] a lot of time… through the ATM cards, which will be enjoyed by 5,000 prisoners and 7,200 released prisoners, in addition to the wounded and the family members of the Martyrs.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 7, 2021]

Expanding on the background and providing technical details, the PA Minister of Communications and IT Is’haq Sidr added:

“We have activated an entire banking mechanism here that is a cash management system that transfers data between us and the ATMs. We have installed 20 ATMs in the residential areas where the beneficiaries of these services are located, and Allah willing we will reach 30 ATMs in the coming days.”

[Official PA TV News, July 6, 2021]

Minister Sidr continued:

“The postal bank is tantamount to a limited bank. All of the owners of accounts there can enjoy its financial services – withdrawing or depositing through its ATMs, which are distributed in the various districts. All the supreme efforts that the teams of this ministry have been investing for more than two months are the least that can be done for the sake of our people, and foremost the family members of the Martyrs, the wounded, the prisoners, and their families… Our duty is to continue working for the sake of our people in light of the sacrifices it is making to reach independence and freedom. Until that is realized, we must enable all the families – and especially the families of the prisoners, the Martyrs, and the wounded – to live in dignity. It is the prisoners’ right that we provide their families with [proper] treatment and that we appreciate them. This is a duty that is not debated, and we are proud to serve them.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 7, 2021]

The Director-General of the PA-funded PLO Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution, Khaled Jabarin, speaking on behalf of the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists added:

“The occupation targeted [the prisoners and the Martyrs] by attempting to prevent the arrival of their allowances and [financial] rights, by banning or threatening the Monetary Authority, the Palestinian banks, and the banks that are active in Palestine against working with these groups. The solution was that there would be a national institution that is affiliated with the [PA] government and not subordinate to the occupation’s measures, and this project that was launched today came into being.”

[Official PA TV News, July 6, 2021]

Recently, the Chairwoman of the PLO Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution Intisar Al-Wazir confirmed that the payments to the families of the Martyrs and the wounded for the month of October were paid on Nov. 7, 2021 through the ATM machines:

“The transfers in the northern districts (i.e. areas in Judea and Samaria controlled by the PA) will be carried out through postal bank ATM machines, while in the southern districts the transfer will take place through authorized money changers in the Gaza Strip.”

[Al-Quds, Nov. 8, 2021]

Unequivocal support for terrorists

While the PA is doing the utmost to hide the terror reward payments, these actions should not be misunderstood as a reflection of a desire, willingness or intention to actually abolish these payments. Rather, the opposite is true. Despite facing a 90% drop in international aid, time after time, Fatah and PA leaders have confessed their unrelenting devotion to rewarding the terrorists.

At the press conference launching the ATM payment system, Abu Bakr made clear:

“Our position regarding the payment of the salaries and allowances of the prisoners and their families is firm. This is their right, and it is anchored in all the international conventions and treaties, because our prisoners are prisoners of a liberation movement and freedom fighters. Therefore, the international agreements and treaties apply to them, and specifically the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, July 6, 2021]

PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh similarly emphasized the unequivocal commitment of the Palestinian leadership regarding the PA terror payments:

“We emphasize the position of [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas – even if just one penny remains in our treasury, it will be for the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 12, 2021]

Intisar Al-Wazir – who is not only the Chairwoman of the PLO Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution, but also the widow of the infamous Khalil Al Wazir, a Palestinian terrorist mass-murderer to whom the PA attributes murdering 125 Israelis – also added:

“The Palestinian  leadership, and foremost among it [PA] President Abbas, is striving to pay these allowances despite the [PA] government’s economic trouble.”

[Al-Quds, Nov. 8, 2021]

Distorting its openly published financial records, to hide the terror rewards

While the PA invested almost unprecedented efforts in 2021 to ensure the continuation of its “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward program, and while the program cost the PA an estimated 850 million shekels, there is no clear reference to the payments in the monthly budget performance reports published by the PA.

In previous years (from 2008 to 2014 and from 2018 to 2019) the financial reports published by the PA included the specific budgetary provisions for the expenses of the “Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.” However, as PMW has already proved, in 2020, the PA removed the explicit reference to the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, and instead reverted to hiding the payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists in the budgetary provision of “PLO Institutions.”

The previous PA effort to hide the payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists with transfers to the “PLO institutions” was even confirmed by former Minister of Prisoners’ AffairsAshraf Al-Ajrami, who was appearing as a defense witness for the PA in a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a terror victim suing the PA. In a cross examination conducted by PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies, Al-Ajrami admitted, that the closing of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and the creation of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs in its stead, was done to deceive the international community, which did not want the PA to use their money to pay salaries to terrorists and families of “Martyrs”:

Hirsch: “Does the Palestinian Authority pay the salaries to the prisoners from its own money, from its account?”

Al-Ajrami: “Correct.”

Hirsch: “Yes? …I looked at the 2017 budget of the Palestinian Authority and I didn’t see that; I saw a transfer to the PLO, because that’s what the Palestinian Authority announced in 2014 – that it no longer pays salaries to the prisoners. What is the identity of the body that pays the salaries? The Palestinian Authority from an official account of the Palestinian Authority, or another body?”

Al-Ajrami: “Because there were complaints from bodies, in fact from funders of the Palestinian Authority who did not want their money to go to the families of prisoners and the fallen. Therefore, the [Palestinian] Authority said that we will not pay money from the government’s budget, we will pay from the PLO, and then they brought the [PA] Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs to the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs under the control of the PLO, and then the money moved from the Palestinian Authority to the PLO – the PLO pays, not the [Palestinian] Authority.”

[Jerusalem District Court protocol, civil suit 3367-09, Feb. 7, 2018]

The 2014 – 2017 deception, confirmed by Al-Ajrami, that was again adopted in 2020, continued again in 2021.

Similar to 2020, while the PA budget performance reports did not include any direct reference to the payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists, the PA transfers to the “PLO Institutions” continued to be substantially higher than in years when the PA was openly disclosing its funding of the PA “Ministry of Prisoners”.

According to the PA’s December budget performance report, in 2021 the PA transferred 873,509,000 shekels to the “PLO institutions”. In 2018 and 2019, when the PA was openly disclosing the terrorist salary payments, the annual PA transfers to the “PLO institutions” were 419,591,000 and 452,092,000 respectively.

Having said that, as noted above, the sums the PA transferred in 2021 to the “PLO Institutions” clearly do not cover the full extent of the PA payments to the released terrorists, who have now been integrated into the PA ministries or put out to pension, and are receiving their payment as part of those budgetary provisions.

As regards the payments to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists, 2021 also saw no change in the PA deception.

As opposed to the payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists, the PA payments to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists were never openly disclosed in the PA budget performance reports.

Rather, they were, and continue to be, hidden in the expenditure on the PA “Ministry of Social Affairs.”

While the PA budget performance reports show only the combined expenditure of the “Ministry of Social Affairs” more in-depth PA financial reports clearly show that the PA payments to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists are included in the expenditure for “Social Affairs.”

For example, in 2018 – the last time the PA openly published its full budget – it also published a table summarizing all the planned expenditure for the year.

As can be seen below, row 47 of the budget summary referred to the Ministry of Social Affairs (literally translated the Ministry of Social Development). Expenditure on this ministry was divided into 2 parts: Part 1 (the first row under line 47) being “Social development – central [fund]”; part 2 “Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution”.

Testifying under oath, Khaled Jabarin, the Deputy Head and CEO of the Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution affirmed that the budgetary provision for the “Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution”, as part of the budgetary provision for the “Ministry of Social Affairs”,  did indeed refer to and include the PA payments to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists [Jerusalem District Court protocol, civil suit 3367-09, Mar. 27, 2018].

For financial years 2019, 2020, and 2021, the PA did not publish its budget, and thus PMW could not establish how much of the 2021 expenditure of the PA Ministry of Social Affairs – which totaled 930,998,000 shekels – was paid to the genuine PA needy and how much was paid to the wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists. However, as shown above, in 2018 the PA allocated 687,322,000 million shekels to the “Families of the Martyrs and Wounded Institution” from which the payments to the wounded terrorists and families of the dead terrorists were made.

While the PA attempts to hide the figures, a study conducted by PMW, showed that in 2018 the PA had paid at least 241 million shekels to the families of dead terrorists. Even this figure did not include all of the PA payments to the families of the dead terrorists or any of the PA payments to the wounded terrorists.

Calculating the exact sum the PA spent on all its “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward payments – including payments to the terrorist prisoners, released terrorists, wounded terrorists and the families of the dead terrorists – is impossible without full access to the PA financial affairs. However, based on the statements of Qadri Abu Bakr (who repeatedly estimated the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists as between 48 to 50 million shekels per month) combined with the research of PMW, it is probably safe to say that the PA terror reward payments in 2021 were at least 841 million shekels.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Palestinian Media Watch

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