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PA confirms ploy to continue paying salaries to terrorists
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 PA confirms ploy  
to continue paying salaries to terrorists  
and avoid Western donors' criticism   

 

PA government spokesman affirms that  
changing name of PA "Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs"  
into PLO "Commission of Prisoners' Affairs"  
will not affect salaries to prisoners

"[The change] will provide political and legal cover...  
it eliminates arguments...  
that [foreign] aid money [to the PA] is going to the prisoners"
 
"The Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs... 
has third largest monthly budget in the PA...
Over 40 million shekels (12 million dollars) a month, which the PA pays the prisoners, the released prisoners and their families."
[Official PA TV, June 11, 2014]

 

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

 
  

Palestinian Media Watch
reported this month that the Palestinian Authority had devised a ploy to avoid criticism from donor countries for its policy of paying salaries to terrorists.

PA government spokesman Ehab Bessaiso has since confirmed this ploy in an interview on official PA TV. Bessaiso explained that the change of "the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs" under the PA into "the Commission of Prisoners' Affairs" under the PLO would "provide political and legal cover" and "eliminate arguments ... that [foreign] aid money [to the PA] is going to the prisoners." Furthermore, when the PA TV host summarized the change by saying, "The [prisoners'] salaries will continue to flow... nothing will harm the prisoners; their rights - under a ministry that became a commission - will remain the same," the government spokesman confirmed that this was correct. [Official PA TV, June 5, 2014] (See longer excerpt below)

 

At a Fatah press conference, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad also confirmed that the change was decided on "following international pressure aimed at preventing the payments to the prisoners." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 11, 2014]

Al-Ahmad added there had been "attempts on the part of the donors to exert pressure [on us] to stop the payments to the prisoners in the occupation prisons, causing us to transfer the issue of the prisoners back to the prisoners' and Martyrs' (Shahids') original mother [organization] (the PLO) [parenthesis in source]." He also confirmed that "a decision has been made to turn the ministry into a commission, and this will be done upon completion of the [necessary] measures."

The planned new "Commission of Prisoners' Affairs" has not yet been established, and the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs is currently still functioning, but with Minister Shawqi Issa replacing former Minister Issa Karake under the new Fatah-Hamas unity government.

 

 

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf explained in an interview that the PA Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs has "the third biggest monthly budget" of all ministries in the PA: 
 
 
"The Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs established under the PA has the third largest monthly budget in the PA. It's the third largest PA government ministry. Over 40 million shekels (i.e., 12 million dollars) a month, which the PA pays the prisoners, the released prisoners and their families."  
[Official PA TV, June 11, 2014] 
Since 2011, Palestinian Media Watch has been reporting on the PA's practice of rewarding terrorists and murderers with high salaries. As a result, the PA has been criticized internationally for paying these salaries. Recently, several members of US Congress suggested that the US either cancel its aid to the PA entirely until it ends this practice or that the US deduct from its aid an amount equaling the amount of money the PA spends on terrorist salaries. Norway and Britain have also demanded explanations regarding these payments.

Last month, PMW reported on Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson's testimony at a congressional Subcommittee Hearing. When questioned regarding the salary program, Patterson stated that she knew the PA was "going to try and phase that out." At the time, the PA had not indicated any intention of "phasing out" the policy. However, this recent maneuver could very well be what the PA presented to Patterson as a "phasing out" of the terrorist salaries.

Click to view more documentation of the PA's policy of rewarding terrorists and murderers with high salaries and other benefits. 

 

The following is a longer excerpt of the interview with the PA government spokesman in which he confirmed that the salaries to terrorists will continue unaffected despite the change from the "PA Ministry" to "PLO Authority":  

 

PA TV host: "What was proposed on the issue of the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs, and that it should be under the PLO?" 
PA government spokesman Ehab Bessaiso: "The change of the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs into the Commission of Prisoners' Affairs is not the [PA] government's issue, but the PLO's issue. The Palestinian government is part of the PLO... [The change] will provide political and legal cover for this issue. In addition, it eliminates the many arguments made by many parties, who always try to say that [foreign] aid money [to the PA] is going to the prisoners, to cover the prisoners' expenses. We all owe it to the prisoners to protect their rights and fulfill their due. They spend years in prison and pay the price. The question isn't the name, or the role, but rather, the framework for the political distribution of roles regarding these issues. When we talk about the prisoners, we are talking about a basic component of Palestinian political activity." 
PA TV host: "None of the prisoners' rights will change. Only the name has changed. Instead of calling it "Ministry," we call it "Commission," but the [prisoners'] salaries will continue to flow, everything will continue - all the allowances... People are concerned about their livelihood; that it may be cut off. We clarify it for them that nothing will harm the prisoners; their rights - under a ministry that became a commission - will remain the same." 
PA government spokesman Ehab Bessaiso: "If you want me to put it simply, then yes, that was [put] simply." 
[Official PA TV, June 5, 2014]

The following is a longer excerpt of the report on Fatah member Azzam Al-Ahmad's confirmation that the change from "PA Ministry" to "PLO Authority" is to avoid donor pressure to stop payments to prisoners: 
 
"Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad announced that the implementation of President [Mahmoud Abbas'] decision to create a Higher Council for Information to replace the Ministry of Information would soon begin... 
At a press conference he organized at the Fatah faction headquarters in Ramallah yesterday, Al-Ahmad told Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that 'the decision to close the Ministry of Information was made in the past and will soon be implemented.' In addition, he said that it had been decided to transform the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs into a commission subordinate to the PLO, in the wake of international pressure aimed at preventing the payments to the prisoners in the occupation... 
Al-Ahmad rejected the attempts to cast doubt on the leadership's position regarding support of the prisoners, and said: 'We stopped the negotiations after Israel refused to release the last group of prisoners, and they are the "apple of our eye."' 
Al-Ahmad noted that in the past, problems had arisen with donor countries regarding the aid to the Martyrs' families, and that their files had therefore been transferred to the PLO. He added: 'In recent months, there have been attempts on the part of the donors to exert pressure [on us] to stop the payments to the prisoners in the occupation prisons, causing us to transfer the issue of the prisoners back to the prisoners' and Martyrs' (Shahids') original mother [organization] (the PLO) [parenthesis in source].'  
He noted that the national efforts must lead to getting rid of the Oslo Accords and their results, and said: 'We don't want any council, government or chairman based on the Oslo Accords; we want a state president, a state parliament and a state government. Even if they try to prevent us from [achieving] this, we have original solutions.' 
He added that 'everything that was said on the issue of the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs [by those who opposed the move] was [mere] wrangling. A decision has been made to turn the ministry into a commission, and this will be done upon completion of the [necessary] measures.'" 
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 11, 2014] 

 

 


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