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PA to Palestinians: Become a terrorist and guarantee yourself a job in the PA!

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |

  • PA’s scheme to bypass donors’ demand to stop terrorist salaries: Released terrorists to become public employees

Since 2018, the Palestinian Authority has been facing considerable financial pressure focused on bringing an end to its terror reward program. Despite that pressure and despite their intuitive desire to make positive overtures to try to placate the new Biden Administration, the director of the PA-funded Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, has repeatedly made it clear that any changes made in the PA’s terror salaries to the terrorist prisoners and released prisoners will be purely cosmetic.

When asked about “a conversation that was republished and reached American media outlets,” clearly alluding to a recent article in the New York Times, “according to which there may be amendments that will affect the prisoners’ and released prisoners’ salaries,” Abu Bakr responded succinctly, but adamantly:

“These things are inaccurate and incorrect.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Dec. 5, 2020]

Addressing the suggestion that the PA payments to the terrorist prisoners will no longer be based on the time they spend in prison, but rather be based on needs and social welfare criteria, Abu Bakr clarified:

“The prisoners are a sacred issue that can’t be touched. Let no one think that it will be transferred to the other institutions – the humanitarian ones or the [PA Ministry of] Social Affairs. This is emphasized by [PA] President [Abbas] at every meeting.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Nov. 27, 2020]

So what changes are being considered by the PA?

There are essentially three separate elements to the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy:

  1. Payment of monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners;
  2. Payment of monthly allowances to released terrorist prisoners;
  3. Payments of monthly allowances to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists (so-called “Martyrs”).

The changes currently being discussed relate solely to one group: Released terrorists who spent more than 10 years in prison.

In order to appreciate the change, it is important to first understand the current situation.

The 2004 PA Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners and its implementing regulations provide not only for the payment of a monthly salary to every terrorist prisoner, but also make provisions regarding the terrorist prisoners upon their release.   
 
The PA Government Decision No. 15 of 2013, “Regulation for Ensuring Jobs for Released Prisoners,” as updated in 2015, encompasses most of the relevant provisions. In addition to the general provision that terrorist prisoners who spent more than one year in prison are entitled to preferential PA employment opportunities (paragraph 2 of the decision), the decision distinguishes between three categories of released terrorist prisoners, providing each one with the appropriate package:

  • Released terrorists who spent one to five years in prison are entitled to unemployment benefits for a period comparable to their prison term (paragraph 13 of the decision).
  • Released terrorists who spent five to 10 years in prison are entitled to receive a lifelong, “fixed salary” (paragraph 4 of the decision).
  • Released terrorists who spent over 10 years in prison automatically receive “Employment with a salary” commensurate with the paygrade set by the decision (paragraph 8 of the decision). While these released terrorists were ostensibly “employed” by the PA, in reality, they never had any real position. Indeed the PA government decision specifically provides that one of the conditions to continue receiving the “Employment with a salary” is that if the PA actually calls the released prisoner to work, he/she must adhere to the request (paragraph 8(3) of the decision):

“Every released prisoner who is employed with a salary according to this clause, is required to comply with the official decisions of the state institutions and to present himself to work if he is requested to do so.”     


Explaining the proposed change, Abu Bakr stated that the original decision that the PA would recruit and employ every released prisoner was made by Yasser Arafat in 1994, but was suspended under former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Since the decision of Fayyad, the number of released terrorists who spent over 10 years in prison and are receiving “Employment with a salary,” has risen to over 7,000 terrorists.

Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr: “The prisoners are a sacred issue that can’t be touched. Let no one think that it will be transferred to the other institutions – the humanitarian ones or the [PA Ministry of] Social Affairs. This is emphasized by [PA] President [Abbas] at every meeting. Currently, we have begun to absorb the released prisoners into the [PA] Security Forces and the PA’s institutions... This ensures their right as devoted Palestinian fighters, and not as released prisoners who are receiving their salary while being at home...The number [of released prisoners] grew until it reached about 7,300 prisoners. Allah willing, we will absorb them within a short period, and when a prisoner retires, he will do so with a pension of a [PA] governmental ministry or of a civilian institution. Even a prisoner who wants to retire [early], will do so with a full payment, because the rights to which the prisoner is eligible and the salary that he receives are for life... These are [things that] President [Abbas] emphasizes that are not to be touched.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Nov. 27, 2020]

Abu Bakr repeated the explanation in another interview, and even stated that the PA has already begun absorbing released terrorists into the PA's institutions:

Palestine Today TV host: “According to [The New York Times] there may be amendments that will affect the prisoners’ and released prisoners’ salaries. Do you know anything about this?”

Abu Bakr: “These things are inaccurate and incorrect. We are working to realize the decision of [former PA President] Martyr Yasser Arafat. In 1994 there was a decision, and even an order, to attach every released prisoner to the [PA] Security Forces or the civilian institutions…. These numbers have risen and reached more than 7,000 [released] prisoners. I renewed this suggestion… to absorb all the released prisoners into the civilian or military institutions according to the desire of each prisoner. Mahmoud Abbas agreed to this matter, and currently we are attempting… to absorb all the released prisoners so there will be no released prisoner who receives his salary as a released prisoner. No. [Instead] he is an employee like all the [public] employees.”

[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Dec. 5, 2020]

In other words, the only change the PA is considering is to actually invent thousands of ostensibly legitimate PA jobs - or maybe even worse: sack a similar number of law-abiding public employees - in order to make the best use of the released terrorists. No longer will the terrorists be able to sit at home doing nothing and receive a fat salary. Rather, they will be official PA employees, with potentially real jobs.

But an even more valid reason for the PA to consider this scheme is so that it can bypass donors’ demand to stop terrorist salaries.

In the last three years, the PA has been under growing financial pressure. In March 2018, the US passed the Taylor Force Act (TFA), which conditioned most direct US aid to the PA on the abolishment of the terror reward policy. TFA combined with the Anti-terrorism Clarification Act, which granted US courts jurisdiction over any party in receipt of US aid, prompted then PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to write to US Secretary of State Pompeo and request that the US administration not provide any aid to the PA.

In 2018, Israel passed its own law to combat the PA terror rewards. According to the Israeli law, the sum that the PA spends on paying the terror rewards in one year will be deducted from the taxes that Israel collects and transfers to the PA in the following year. Based on this law, Israel has already deducted 651 million shekels – the sum the Israeli Security Cabinet decided the PA had paid in terror rewards in 2018. Israel recently decided to deduct another 600 million shekels - the sum the Israeli Security Cabinet decided the PA had paid in terror rewards in 2019. When passed, the Israeli MPs who initiated the legislation specifically thanked Palestinian Media Watch, for its assistance.  

In December 2019, as a direct result of a presentation given by PMW’s director Itamar Marcus in which he detailed the elements of the PA’s terror reward policy, the Dutch Government announced that it would no longer provide aid to the Palestinian Authority’s budget.  

Clearly, the PA thinks that making this cosmetic change to its terror reward program will suffice and placate international donors. For the PA, it is perfectly reasonable for the cash-strapped body that can only survive on massive international aid, to invent 7,000 new government positions – or sack law-abiding employees to fit in the released terrorists - merely as a scheme to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. To the PA, it would also appear completely reasonable to recruit released terrorists into the PA’s security apparatus – an institution that is meant to be fighting terror – based simply on the criteria that the terrorists have spent at least ten years in prison.

The outrageous nature of this new policy is made even more real, when one takes into account that the policy is designed to provide for all released prisoners, including those who are members of internationally designated terror organizations such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

If allowed to proceed, and if the international donors do indeed allow themselves to be willingly deceived and renew their aid to the PA, the result will be that seasoned and experienced terrorists from Hamas, PIJ, the PFLP, and Abbas’ Fatah will all be eligible for salaries funded by the international community in their positions – somewhat akin to the cat guarding the cream – of fighting Palestinian terror.