A subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is exploring the issue of Palestinian Authority government salaries going to convicted terrorists, a program that may be utilizing annual U.S. foreign aid granted to the Palestinians.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade expressed concern at a hearing on Wednesday that U.S. taxpayer money could be landing in the pockets of convicted Palestinian terrorists.
“The United States gave $440 million in fiscal year 2013 to the Palestinian Authority,” Poe said. “We all know that money is fungible. The more money we give to help them with these ‘job programs,’ the more money the Palestinian Authority has to pay terrorists.”
“U.S. taxpayer money should not be paying and rewarding Palestinian terrorists who are doing harm and killing Israelis and Americans,” Poe said.
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. (AFP/Getty Images/Abbas Momani)
Poe described the “bags of money to convicted terrorists,” including monthly salaries distributed by the Palestinian Authority government that range from $500 to $3,500. That adds up to an estimated 6 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget.
“The more serious the crime, the more dead Israelis or Americans, the more money the Palestinians in jail receive. In Palestine, being a terrorist is one of the best-paying jobs,” Poe said.
The Palestinian government has not only rewarded terrorism, but has also apparently encouraged new attacks. Poe noted the case of Husni Najjar, a Palestinian man who told Israeli interrogators that he was planning a terrorist attack that he never intended to carry out in an effort to be arrested and thus be rewarded with a generous compensation package from the Palestinian Authority.
“Now isn't that lovely,” Poe quipped on Wednesday.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia told TheBlaze in an email, “It’s no secret that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and seeks to reward those who would harm our friend and ally, the democratic, Jewish State of Israel. The fact that the PA is paying salaries to Palestinians who have been released from Israeli prisons should tell you just how insecure Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas] is about a peaceful settlement with Israel.”
There are currently about 4,500 Palestinian prisoners serving in Israeli jails, most being held for terrorism-related offenses.
In January, a bill was introduced that would link U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians to their effort to stop incitement.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced the bill, under which President Barack Obama would have to certify that the Palestinian Authority “no longer engages in a pattern of incitement against the United States or Israel; and is engaged in peace preparation activities aimed at promoting peace with the Jewish State of Israel.”
Under the legislation, compliance would have to be re-certified every six months.
Royce in January that, “as Secretary of State John Kerry engages in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Congress will make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that continuing anti-Israel incitement to violence through PA-controlled media outlets must cease.”
“No more Palestinian Authority-funded Facebook pages or children’s magazines holding up Hitler as a positive role model. Not only must the PA cease incitement, it should engage in a clear, conclusive and deliberate effort to officially and publicly repudiate the providers of such hatred,” Royce added.
According to the Israeli research organization Palestinian Media Watch which tracks Palestinian government-sanctioned incitement, the Palestinian Authority distributed about $100 million to convicted terrorists in 2013.