Abbas Aide: ‘Insane’ to Think We Will Stop Payments to Terrorists’ Families

President Donald Trump (R) listens to a reporter’s question as he welcomes Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office at the White House on Wednesday. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Anyone who thinks the Palestinian Authority will stop remitting payments to the families of terrorists in Israeli prisons is “insane,” according to Nabil Sha’ath, a top aide to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas. Sha’ath told Israel Radio that such a demand had only one purpose – to “ruin the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians under the leadership of President Trump.” The terrorists held by Israel are “victims of Israel” and “the result of the occupation,” he said. “Can we ask the Israeli government to withhold payment to IDF soldiers?” he asked rhetorically.

It is not clear whom Sha’ath and the PA consider “insane” for suggesting cessation of the payments. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has spoken out on the issue numerous times. In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News in April, Netanyahu said that the PA needed to “stop rewarding terrorism” as a first step towards making peace. “I think this is the first test of peace,” Netanyahu said of the payments. “On an annual basis, they’re often giving hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists or the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis, murdered Americans. It’s unimaginable,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.

However, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not the only one calling for those payments to cease. At their meeting Wednesday, President Donald Trump brought the subject up with Abbas. “President Trump raised his concerns about payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed terrorist acts, and to their families, and emphasized the need to resolve this issue,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump emphasized the importance of making a clear commitment to preventing inflammatory rhetoric and to stopping incitement, and to continue strengthening efforts to combat terrorism,” the statement said.

U.S. lawmakers have also warned that Palestinian funding could be cut off unless Abbas halts stipends to families of terrorists, whom many Palestinians view as heroes.

With that, Sha’ath said that Abbas and the PA were satisfied with the meeting, and saw it as “a positive opening” for further talks. Sha’ath said in the interview that President Trump spoke respectfully to, and respectably about, Abbas; and that the president emphasized the need to resolve the Middle East conflict.