Ramallah aims to find loophole to continue terrorist stipends while addressing US reform demands

The US has been pressuring Abbas to reform the Palestinian Authority as a precursor to it taking responsibility for Gaza.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

The Palestinian Authority is examining ways to continue making controversial “pay-for-slay” stipends to imprisoned terrorists in an indirect way to satisfy White House demands to end the practice.

This comes amid wider PA reforms that Washington is seeking from Ramallah.

“The Palestinian Authority sent a message to the US, according to which it is ready to examine other options instead of transferring the monthly payment to the terrorists and the families of the prisoners and martyrs,” a senior official in the Palestinian Authority told The Press Service of Israel.

According to the source, the PA is examining a series of alternative options. One involves awarding prisoners with points similar to eligibility for social security payment through the PA’s welfare department.

A second option is paying a significant one-time grant to establish a business.

A third possibility Ramallah is considering is to transfer the payments through a non-profit organization sufficiently detached from the PA.

“The Palestinian Authority has so far paid a very heavy political price for transferring the payment to the terrorists,” the PA official told TPSIL.

“Among other things, the United States avoided opening a Palestinian consulate in East Jerusalem, reopening PLO offices in Washington, as well as removing the PLO from the list of terrorist organizations in the United States.”

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He added, “In return, the Palestinians expect American pressure on Israel that will lead to the release of the frozen tax funds and a political move.”

The Palestinian Authority allocates seven percent of its annual budget for its so-called “Martyr’s Fund,” which provides stipends to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, and the families of terrorists killed in attacks.

The size of the monthly payouts is primarily determined by the duration of the terrorist’s incarceration, with a negligible additional factor based on family size.

Israeli officials say the stipends provide incentives for terror and regularly offset an equivalent amount from taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. The new law allows families to collect judgments against the PA from the frozen funds.

In January, the Palestinian Authority expanded its list of beneficiaries for terror stipends, adding 3,550 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since the October 7 massacres.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, Ramallah will also make payments to more than 20,000 “martyrs,” including terrorists killed fighting Israeli forces in Gaza.

Ramallah has been making the payouts for years. But the issue came under scrutiny following the 2016 murder of US citizen Taylor Force.

Force’s murder became high profile because Force was killed in Jaffa while then-Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with former Israeli President Shimon Peres at a nearby location.

The terrorist, Bashar Masalha was killed by responding security personnel, but reports later surfaced that his family in Qalqilya was receiving special payouts from the PA.

The US has been pressuring Abbas to reform the Palestinian Authority as a precursor to it taking responsibility for the adminstration and reconstruction of Gaza.

Reforms include cutting down the PA’s bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, replacing diplomats representing the PA abroad, and initiating an internal self-investigation mechanism within the Palestinian Preventive Security.

However, nobody in Ramallah believes Abbas will see the reforms through.

A March survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 81% of the Palestinians polled in Judea, Samaria and Gaza dissatisfied with Abbas’s leadership and 84% saying they want him to resign.

Palestinians have not held national elections since 2005 and Abbas is now in the 19th year of what was supposed to be a four-year term.

Since then, Abbas has canceled several attempted elections amid Fatah-Hamas disagreements, most recently in 2021.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is laying the groundwork for an eventual return to Gaza.

The PA source told TPS-IL that Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud recently committed to deliver a “significant” economic aid package to “to prepare the Palestinian Authority for administration and power in Gaza the day after the war.”

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Evidence of the PA’s involvement in the Gaza Strip is already visible on the ground.

TPS-IL has learned that two Palestinian General Intelligence officers tasked with securing humanitarian aid trucks in northern Gaza were murdered on Sunday. The two were working within the framework of coordination between the Israeli and PA security systems.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.