The Palestinian Authority (PA) has announced it is setting aside an additional $46 million in funds for Palestinians released from Israeli prison - many of whom were convicted of carrying out terrorist attacks - with the aim of “improving” their conditions.
An Israeli research organization, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), said that some of those funds either directly or indirectly come from international donors, including aid from the U.S.
According to a February 6 report in the Arabic language Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that has just been translated by PMW, the Palestinian Authority announced it would be distributing an additional $46 million a year in aid to the released prisoners.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to released Palestinian prisoners, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 14, 2013. Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners on August 14, 2013. (Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
“The Palestinian Authority has said that it will make these payments to prisoners depending on financial ability. Without U.S. and European money, they cannot pay any salaries and cannot cover their regular budget - they certainly would not be paying these terrorists,” Director of Palestinian Media Watch Itamar Marcus told TheBlaze.
“The U.S. funds the PA's general budget and it is from the PA's general budget that it funds the Ministry of Prisoners which pays salaries and other benefits to terrorists,” Marcus said in response to a question by e-mail. “The U.S. money is in the same pot from where the PA pays terrorists.”
The new budget item would provide funding beyond the already generous payments - including monthly salaries and stipends - to the former prisoners, some of whom were convicted of the most gruesome crimes such as burning, shooting and ax attacks on civilians, including the elderly.
The former prisoners are already given a monthly stipend ranging between $2,300 and $4,000 and in November were each given a $50,000 bonus, Israel Radio reported then.
According to the Arabic news report published last week, Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake described the new policy as aimed at “improving conditions for released [prisoners].”
The generous funds were set aside despite “a large budget deficit,” Karake explained when he made the announcement.
Karake “noted that the government has made the prisoners' issue one of its priorities and is investing all its efforts in easing their suffering given what is available (i.e., availability of funds),” Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported.
The minister further announced that the Palestinian government had approved an exemption for released prisoners “from paying customs duty” and that the Palestinian Authority would also cover fertility treatments to those prisoners in need of such a subsidy.
Karake in November slammed European governments over their criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s granting of funds to terrorists.
"The Europeans want their money that comes to us to remain clean - not to go to families of those they claim to be 'terrorists.' [They] need to renounce this occupation (Israeli) mentality,” Karake said in a Palestinian television broadcast translated by PMW.
“These [prisoners] are heroes, self-sacrificing fighters (fedayyeen), and fighters who fought so that we could live in dignity...These heroes, whom you [the audience] are applauding, must live in dignity, so that we will continue to hold our heads high. We appreciate the people of the revolution and are proud of them," he added.
The U.S. gives the Palestinian Authority about $500 million per year. Kerry has floated an additional $4 billion infusion to the Palestinians if they reach a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.