American investigative journalist Edwin Black (author of the award-winning international bestseller "IBM and the Holocaust") has just published a book called "Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel."
His timing couldn't be more appropriate, since we have learned that our Palestinian peace partners are giving generous grants and stipends to terrorists recently released from Israeli prisons.
Palestinian Media Watch revealed that prisoners freed by Israel as part of John Kerry's peace process are getting PA grants of up to $50,000 each and monthly stipends of $3,975 (14,000 shekels) if they spent 25 years in Israeli jails. Those who spent 15-25 years in jail get over $2,600 (NIS 10,000) per month. Those who served between 11 and 15 years in jail for terror receive $1,500 for each year of imprisonment; and terrorists who served up to 10 years in jail get "only" $1,000 for each year served. These sums are about four times the average monthly salary in the PA.
Black showed that the PA also makes large monthly payments to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs still in jail, as long as they were imprisoned for terrorism against Israel. This includes prisoners serving multiple life sentences for murder. Their families receive the stipends. Arabs from Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs imprisoned for terror offenses get additional supplements, in honor of their "exceptional heroism."
On a sliding scale basis, carefully articulated in the Palestinian "Law of the Prisoner," the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years are paid about $560 monthly, a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of 10 to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. More severe acts of terrorism, those punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month. The PA ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.
And the PA is an equal opportunity terrorist employer. Its salaries for terrorists are granted to members of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad alike.
Hamas terrorist Abbas al-Sayyeed, convicted of planning the 2002 Park Hotel massacre in which 30 Israeli civilians were killed as they sat at a Passover Seder, has been paid $3,000 (NIS 12,000) per month from PA coffers.
Former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a darling of Western donor countries, was the individual who regularized and tripled these payments during his tenure.
These benefits are administered by the PA's Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. A Palestinian watchdog group, the Prisoners Club, ensures the PA's compliance with the law and pushes for payments as a prioritized expenditure. This means that even during frequent budget shortfalls and financial crises, the PA pays the terrorists' salaries first and foremost, before other fiscal obligations.
More than 6,000 Palestinians are serving time in Israeli prisons for terror-related offenses. As a result, it is estimated that at least 6 percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to paying terrorist salaries.
All this money comes from donor countries like the U.S., U.K., Norway and Denmark. I've scratched my head again and again wondering why.
I understand why Western donor countries prop up the Palestinian Authority itself, as does Israel. The alternative to the cardboard PA is Hamas government or total breakdown of any order in the West Bank. So we all make continuous life support payments to the Palestinian Authority, seeking to buy quiet and build moderation. This frustratingly includes paying the salaries of tens of thousands of truly unnecessary PA "civil servants," many of whom don't have real jobs and some of whom live in Gaza and are paid to stay home, as opposed to working for Hamas.
Furthermore, it makes sense to invest in quality-of-life infrastructures in the PA like industry, modern housing, the justice system and water and waste facilities, all of which are necessary if a long-term architecture of peaceful coexistence is to emerge.
But why look the other way when Abbas signs checks to terrorists, feeding the narrative that murdering and maiming Israelis is a heroic enterprise?
Shouldn't this be a central topic for discussion in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Shouldn't abjuring terror, refraining from glorifying terror and stopping payments for terror be a central Israeli and international demand of the Palestinians?
Furthermore, you have to ask the question: If the PA has all this money available to distribute freely, maybe we should force the PA first to pay off its almost $300 million (1 billion shekels) debt to the Israel Electric Company, a debt that continues to grow at the rate of about $20 million a month?
Perhaps Israel should cut back transfer of the tax monies it regularly collects on behalf of the PA? Since the beginning of the year, Israel has transferred to the PA about $850 million in accrued taxes. And when the PA experienced a budget crisis in the second half of 2012, Israel transferred to the PA an advance of over $250 million to help it pay salaries to its "employees," including the terrorists. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, as of this month the PA has NIS 560 million of these advance funds still available to pay out.
Furthermore, Israel supplies to the Palestinians 53 million cubic meters (more than 1,400 million gallons) of water annually, about 22 million cubic meters (582 million gallons) more than the amount set in the Oslo Accords. The water is supplied at the original cost of NIS 2.6 million, NIS 1.26 million less than the price of water sold to local authorities in Israel. In other words, Israel subsidizes the PA's water to the tune of almost $20 million annually. And in the summer of 2013, Israel increased the amount of water supplied to the PA by 11,000 cubic meters daily (or about 4 million cubic meters annually).
Furthermore, Israel allocates more than $1 million a year to cover the hospital expenses of thousands of Palestinian patients hospitalized in Israel, as well as the expenses of many Palestinian medical personnel who train in Israel every year. Yesterday, we learned that Israel just treated the sick granddaughter of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (at the Schneider Children's Hospital).
So the PA rewards terrorists in jail and those released from jail, handsomely, for killing Israelis, with money from Israel and the international donor community. Meanwhile, Israel subsidizes PA water, electricity and health care, even for the family members of our meanest radical Islamic enemies. Talk about asymmetries. Talk about absurdity.