After an Israeli official earlier Wednesday disputed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Palestinian Authority had agreed to stop paying salaries to the families of terrorists held in Israeli prisons, the PA official in charge of terrorist prisoners confirmed the Israeli account. “There has not been and will not be a change in our policy,” said Karaka. “The salaries will continue to be paid,” Karaka told Channel Ten. “Stopping these payments would be the end of the Palestinian Authority. It would have major social and economic implications for many PA families.”
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 American displeasure with the PA’s funding of terrorism in meetings with Abbas, both in Washington and Bethlehem. Earlier Tuesday, Israeli officials quoted on several media outlets said that this was incorrect. “The PA continues to praise, incite, and assist terror, and continues to do so with payments for all these things,” the officials said.
Later Wednesday, official word came from the PA that indeed the salaries were being paid. Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons earlier in June had complained that their families did not receive their money, and Kra’aka confirmed this – but said it nothing to do with Abbas’s promises to Trump. “We stopped those payments because of a dispute with Hamas,” he told Channel Ten. “That had nothing to do with Tillerson’s and Trump’s demands.”
Meanwhile, the Knesset passed on its first reading Wednesday 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. “It is time to put an end to the phenomenon of terrorists and their families getting paid by the PA fo the murder of Israelis,” Stern wrote in a letter accompanying the law. “We cannot accept a situation where terrorists get a salary for killing Jews. This is one way for us to fight terror, and I see this law as critical for the security of Israel.”
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 Stern’s 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.