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PMW warning letter to Palestinian banks: Stop allowing salaries to be transferred to terrorists or face dire consequences

Maurice Hirsch, Adv. and Itamar Marcus  |

Among the possible consequences:

  • Seizure of the funds in the bank accounts
  • Arrest and prosecution of bank employees for committing a terror offense
  • Exposure of banks to civilian law suits worth hundreds of millions

Legislation set to take effect on May 9, 2020, applies substantial parts of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law to Judea and Samaria. Palestinian Media Watch has written to the heads of the different banks in the Palestinian Authority areas, warning them that if they continue to provide bank accounts through which the PA pays salaries to terrorist prisoners after May 9, they could face personal criminal liability as well as exposing their banks to civil law suits from terror victims.

The new legislation provides that 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, is himself committing an offence punishable with 10 years in prison and a substantial fine.

The following is the letter PMW sent to the banks:

Since PMW has conclusively shown that the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners are a reward for acts of terror, any person involved in this process, including the PA administrative staff and the banks, after May 9, 2020, will be committing a criminal offence pursuant to the new Israeli legislation.

To avoid the criminal liability, the PA banks must immediately close all the accounts into which the PA makes the payments for the benefit of the terrorist prisoners. It is irrelevant whether the accounts are in the names of the terrorist prisoners themselves or in the name of any proxy they appointed.

Should the banks not heed PMW’s warning, Israel should immediately act to enforce the new law, including seizing the terror funds directly from the banks.

In addition, should the PA not immediately desist from making these payments, PMW recommends that Israel initiate personal criminal proceedings against both the PA personnel involved in this process and the banking staff.

It should be noted, that Israel’s Minister of Defense recently adopted PMW’s recommendation and started seizing the salaries that the PA has paid to Israeli-Arab terrorists. That recommendation was based on the provisions in Israel’s Anti-Terror Law, and information gathered shows that based on PMW’s recommendation, the Minister of Defense has issued numerous “Administrative Seizure Orders”, for funds exceeding 2,000,000 shekels. It is that law that has now been adopted in Judea and Samaria.

Having been the first to expose the PA practice of paying salaries to terrorist prisoners, PMW has continued to put pressure on both the international community and the Israeli government to take steps to combat this phenomenon. PMW was instrumental in pressuring the IDF to finally apply the provisions of Israel’s Anti-Terrorism Law, to Judea and Samaria, as well.  

As a direct result of years of PMW international activities, in 2018 the United States passed the Taylor Force Act which conditioned the US aid to the PA on the abolition of this practice. The Netherlands and Australia have also stopped funding the PA following PMW’s meetings with members of parliaments in these countries. In Israel, PMW played a central role in the passage of legislation that imposes financial sanction on the PA for this practice. Based on this legislation, in 2019, Israel froze the transfer of over 500 million shekels to the PA.

This latest change could significantly impede the PA’s ability to reward terrorists, as potentially they will not have bank accounts in which to deposit the reward money in the PA areas. This will be dependent on whether Israel’s new Minister of Defense, who has not yet been chosen, will act according to the full extent of Israeli law after May 9.