Topic | Choose topic/s and define your search
Affiliations / Personalities
Sources
Date Range

PMW’s initiative edges closer to ending the PA’s terror reward payments

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |
  • Israeli anti-terror law that defines PA salary payments to terrorists as a criminal offence due to come into force on December 31, 2020.

  • In an attempt to temporarily circumvent the law, the PA is planning to pay terrorists 3 months’ salary in advance - before the new law takes effect  

On Dec. 31, the provisions of Israel’s Anti-Terror Law that outlaw financial remuneration as a reward for the commission of terror crimes, comes into force in Judea and Samaria) i.e.,  the West Bank), including in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The new law provides an additional source to define the PA salary payments to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists as illegal payments.

The 2016 Israeli Anti-Terror Law was first adopted in Judea and Samaria in February 2020 and was set to come into force on May 9. According to the provision, any person who carries out a transaction with property that “supports, promotes, funds or rewards” the commission of defined terror crimes, will be subject to a prison sentence of up to seven to 10 years (depending on the nature or severity of the offence for which the property was given).

Three weeks prior, Palestinian Media Watch took the initiative applying the new law to the PA’s payment of monthly salaries to the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists.

In a letter to all the banks operating in the PA, PMW warned them that if they did not cease assisting the PA to pay terror rewards to the terrorist prisoners, the banks would potentially face both civil and criminal repercussions, Israeli forces could cease the terror funds directly from the banks, and the banks’ employees would also face potential criminal proceedings.

The Association of Banks in Palestine responded to PMW’s warning by writing to the PA Minister of Finance saying that “all of the banks hereby ask Your Honor to stop transferring any sums into these accounts. The banks will transfer the balances in these accounts to the Ministry of Finance’s account.” [Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, May 8, 2020]

PMW’s warning letter and the response of the PA banks created turmoil for the PA that suddenly found itself without the ability to pay the tens of millions of shekels it pays every month to thousands of imprisoned and released terrorists.

To circumvent the Israeli Anti-Terror legislation, the PA decided to establish a new terror bank, through which it would make all its terror reward payments. Named the “Independence Bank,” the PA vision for its continued terror support saw the creation of a new Palestinian banking institution that would have no external banking connections and would therefore not be the subject, ostensibly, of international anti-terror financing regulations.

As a result of the Palestinian violence that followed the decision of the PA banks to refuse to receive the terror rewards and recognizing that the new legislation would have a substantial impact on the PA banking system, combined with the back drop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz decided on June 7 to temporarily freeze the relevant provision. Finally, at the beginning of October 2020, the Coordinator of Israeli Government Activities in the Territories, Major-General Kamil Abu Rukun, wrote to the PA Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, informing him that Israel had decided, for one last time, to defer the date on which the provision would come into force until Dec. 31, 2020.

Since the PA does not seem to have completed its preparations to establish the new terror bank, the Head of the PA funded Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, announced on Sunday (Dec. 27) that before the end of the month, the PA intends to pay all the terrorist prisoners salaries for three months - one salary for the month of December 2020, and salary advances for the months of January and February 2021.

“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]

Initially, PMW focused on the commercial banks that operate in the PA after identifying them as the weak link in the PA’s terror reward policy. According to PMW’s theory, the banks, many of which have correspondent banks in Europe and the US and are subject to stringent anti-terror laws and regulations, are not ideologically invested in the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy and would have much to lose from sanctions for providing services to the PA and for the terrorist prisoners and released terrorists. The latest developments indicate that PMW’s theory was accurate, with reports claiming that the banks’ refusal to continue providing services to the terrorists entirely reflected PMW’s warning letter:

“The banks informed the government that they do not intend to transfer the prisoners’ salaries after the aforementioned date [Dec. 30, 2020], since the government has said that it will not be able to provide them with protection if the occupation [Israeli] army breaks into them, punishes them, or arrests their employees.”

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

While PMW initiated this latest move by focusing on the PA banks, once in force, the new provision will also have far-reaching implications for all of the PA bodies, proxies and personnel that are involved in the implementation of the policy. The new provision would also have a substantial effect on the terrorist recipients themselves.

A year ago, in December 2019, PMW recommended that Israel’s then Minister of Defense Naftali Bennet implement the Israeli Anti-Terror law, which was passed in 2016, and order the seizure of terror reward salaries that the PA had paid to Israeli Arab terrorists. Based on the same provisions that are now due to come into force in Judea and Samaria, Bennet adopted the recommendation and ordered the seizure of millions of shekels.

If the Israeli authorities implement the new provision to its full extent, it will be a huge step towards ending the PA’s institutionalized policy of rewarding terror.           

The following are longer excerpts of the articles mentioned above:

Headline: “Abu Bakr: Salaries for three months will be paid to the prisoners”

“On Sunday evening [Dec. 27, 2020], Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr said that salaries for three months will be paid to the prisoners, in order to avoid the occupation’s decision to punish the Palestinian banks (refers to the application of much of Israel's Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.).

In an exclusive statement to the [independent Palestinian news] agency Safa, Abu Bakr said: ‘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.’
It should be noted that in recent months Palestinian banks have begun to close a number of prisoners’ accounts and have suspended them, following the occupation’s announcement that sanctions will be imposed on the banks that have prisoners’ accounts.”

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

Headline: “New details on the payment of the prisoners’ salaries for the coming months”

“Knowledgeable sources in the [PA] Ministry of Finance and the [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs told [the Palestinian news website] Quds [News] Network that the Palestinian [PA] 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 (refers to the application of much of Israel's Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.).

The sources said that the banks informed the government that they do not intend to transfer the prisoners’ salaries after the aforementioned date, since the [PA] government has said that it will not be able to provide them with protection if the occupation army breaks into them, punishes them, or arrests their employees. They added that the government decided to take this step until alternatives are found.

The sources explained that 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 sources noted to Quds Network that the prisoners’ salaries will be transferred before this Wednesday [Dec. 30, 2020]…
It should be noted that last month [November 2020], the PA asked released prisoners to fill out forms in order to appoint them to the various government ministries, so as to avoid the Israeli sanctions that are liable to be imposed on the banks, but it appears that the appointments will not be carried out before the end of February [2021].”

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

Israeli army legislation which applies parts of Israel's 2016 Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank (taking effect on May 9, 2020). The law prohibits numerous terror related offenses, including terror funding/rewarding and holds heads of terror organizations responsible for murder committed by members of the organization. The law criminalizes the provision of funds for or the payment of rewards for the commission of terrorist offenses, such as the salaries the PA pays to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners. The provision also applies to any person or body - such as a bank - that facilitates such funding or rewarding of terror offenses. Based on this last provision, PMW sent letters in April 2020 to the heads of banks in the PA areas warning them that they must freeze the accounts of terrorists and their proxies and transfer them to the Israeli army or face legal consequences.