Israeli Officials: Despite U.S. Assurances, No Change in PA’s Funding of Terror

President Donald Trump (L.) shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Beit Lechem, May 23. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

YERUSHALAYIM - Israeli officials said Wednesday that despite assurances by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Palestinian Authority had not halted its payments to the families of terrorists in Israeli prisons. Israeli media reports Tuesday quoted a government official as saying that “the PA continues to praise, incite and assist terror, and continues to do so with payments for all these things.”

In a press conference Monday, Tillerson said that the PA has “changed that policy,” and that “their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others. We have been very clear with them that this is simply not acceptable to us.” Tillerson added that he and President Donald Trump had made clear America’s displeasure with the PA’s funding of terrorism in meetings with Abbas, both in Washington and Beit Lechem.

In a statement after their Beit Lechem meeting, the White House said that “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. 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.

Last month, Nabil Sha’ath, a top aide to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Radio that anyone who thinks the PA will stop remitting payments to the families of terrorists in Israeli prisons is “insane.” 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.

The Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday approved for Knesset legislation a bill that would deduct from tax payments to the Palestinian Authority the amount of money the PA pays families of terrorists. The bill, proposed by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) has widespread support in the coalition, including that of MK David Bitan (Likud), coalition chair.

Israel collects tax and duty payments on behalf of the Palestinian Authority for imported goods that enter the country via Ashdod Port. The goods are then transshipped to PA-controlled areas, and the collected fees are transferred as well. Under the bill, Israel would withhold payment of the fees due to the PA in the same amount that the Authority distributes to the families of terrorists held in Israeli prisons. The figure is easy to compute, as Israel knows which terrorists qualify for payments, and how much each of their acts of terror is worth to the PA.