Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum have called for the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs to be officially declared a terrorist organization by the Israeli Government, because of its central role in the paying of salaries to terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists (collectively, the ‘Prisoner and Martyr Payments’).
“I call on you to add the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs to the List of Declared Prohibited and Terror Organizations. It is an organization whose very nature is to support terror, to which we should show zero tolerance,” MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid-Telem) wrote to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, under whose auspices the List of Declared Prohibited and Terror Organizations sits. “The Palestinian Authority uses different ways to circumvent the laws against supporting the families of terrorists, this step will be a meaningful way to stop it completely.”
MK Elazar Stern, along with MK Avi Dichter (Likud), passed a law in July 2018 requiring the government to deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority pays out to convicted terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority. The Palestinian Authority has used many different ways to circumvent this, and the Taylor Force Act, passed by Congress in March 2018, that would also deduct funds and aid because of the payments, known as “Pay for Slay”.
“The outlawing of the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs would demonstrate the reality that it is not about rehabilitation but about bringing more and more Palestinians into the circle of terrorism,” MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), Chairman of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus said. “The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense must act immediately to stop the transfer of benefits to the families of the terrorists and then ensure that the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs be declared an illegal terrorist organization.”
MK Matan Kahana (Yamina) also called on the Defense Minister to prohibit and proscribe the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs as a terrorist organization. “The next necessary step, as recently recommended to US President Trump by Congressman Doug Lamborn, is to impose personal sanctions on public figures in the Palestinian Authority and the PLO involved in terrorist payments, as also stipulated in Israeli law,” MK Kahana said, placing a debate on the issue on the Knesset agenda. “It should not be, that while other nations around the world, especially our friend the United States, are making efforts to eradicate this phenomenon of terror payments, Israel will continue to keep quiet.”
MK Kahana was referring to a letter sent last week by Congressman Doug Lamborn to President Donald Trump calling on him to place the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs and its Director Qadri Abu Bakr on the U.S. Administration’s list of designated terrorist entities and persons through Executive Order 13224.
Nave Dromi, Director of the Middle East Forum Israel Office, which was behind the initiative and sent letters to the 120 MKs calling on them to support this step, said: “I thank the Members of Knesset from various parties for joining this initiative seeking to impose sanctions on PA institutions involved in transferring salaries to terrorists. This is an important step that will work to correct this injustice and save lives. These payments are the economic incentivization of Palestinian violent rejectionism and terror and until this is defeated, and Israel achieves victory, the conflict will not end.”
The letter Dromi sent to the MKs was cosigned by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), Choosing Life, an organization representing bereaved families who have lost loved ones in terrorist attacks, Habitchonistim and Mivtachi Yisrael, two organizations representing senior former IDF officers, The IDF Disabled Soldiers Forum, The International Legal Forum, Shurat HaDin, The Kohelet Policy Forum and Lavie – The Forum for Improved Administration.
Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, whose report on the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs prompted Congressman Doug Lamborn’s letter to Trump, said “I welcome this important initiative by MKs. One of the great oversights in Israel’s war on terror has been to ignore the involvement of the PA leaders and infrastructures they control. The immunity from political consequences has been interpreted by the PA leaders as a green light to launch terror waves whenever they deem it politically expedient. Targeting the PA institution that finances and rewards PA terror will send an important message to the international community and especially to the PA that no one involved in terror will have immunity.”