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Are U.S. Tax Dollars Covering Financial Rewards to Palestinian Terrorists?

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$5,000 and new houses.

Fresh off reports that Hamas lavished cash and free luxury hotel rooms on terrorists released last month from Israeli prison, it appears the Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by President Mahmoud Abbas is offering them even more financial perks.

Hamas gave a $2,000 golden parachute to the freed prisoners in Gaza. Now, President Abbas is more than doubling that amount – to a $5,000 grant. The U.S. gives annual aid to the Palestinian Authority - about $600 million just last year - raising the question: are American tax dollars funding handouts to convicted terrorists?

Additionally, Abbas on Saturday announced his government will build houses for the released prisoners. According to the Jerusalem Post, the new housing project will be paid for by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF):

The announcement came during a meeting between Abbas and some of the released prisoners in his office in Ramallah…

During the meeting with the prisoners, Abbas said that the issue of the prisoners was at the top of the PA’s list of priorities. He said that PA negotiators raise the issue in all meetings and forums.

Abbas also hailed the prisoners’ “steadfastness in the face of Israeli arrogance.”

According to Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “the PIF was created in 2002 to manage and distribute the money and commercial interests owned by the PA. They bylaws were established so that its operations would be transparent, since the PIF effectively functions as a sovereign wealth fund.” He says the PA borrows from the PIF to pay salaries in exchange for land.

That the Palestinian Authority pays the salaries of convicted terrorists is not new. They can be in prison or released from prison to receive the monies. A Palestinian Media Watch study found that the Palestinian Authority spends more than $5 million per month in salaries for 5,500 convicted terrorists and other Palestinians serving time in Israeli prisons.

Fox News reported in August:

The average salary of a prisoner is greater than Palestinian civil servants – prisoners on average receive 3,200 in Israeli shekels a month compared with 2,800 for civil servants.

The prisoner salary of 3,200 shekels is about $889. The civil servant salary is the equivalent of $778.

In exchange for the release of its kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel said it would release 1,027 Palestinians from prison. In the first phase of the deal, it has so far released 477, some of whom were serving multiple life sentences for carrying out some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks Israel has known.

Among the recipients of the PA-provided salaries are those convicted of murdering not only Israelis but also U.S. citizens. In a letter urging Congress to cut aid to the Palestinians in light of the PA payments to terrorists, Member of Knesset Moshe Matalon listed some of those who killed Americans:

Ihlan Tamimi and Muhammad Daglas, who bombed a Jerusalem restaurant in 2001. Shoshana Greenbaum, a citizen of the US, was among the attack’s 15 victims.

Another released terrorist, Walid Anjas, was serving 36 life sentences for his attack on the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in 2002, in which five Americans and one French citizen were killed.

U.S. aid is aimed at supporting peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians by raising the standard of living for Palestinians and funding the Palestinian police. When faced with threats of cutting or stopping U.S. aid, Palestinian officials have said they need the money to pay government employee salaries.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing in September about continuing to fund the Palestinian Authority.  Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said “If the Palestinians continue on their current path, the question before this Congress will not be what portion of our aid will be cut, but rather what portion will remain.”

As for the Palestinian public, what kind of message is this sending to law-abiding Palestinians – who see these dubious rewards for terrorism?

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