Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Israeli decision’s earlier Thursday to designate the Palestinian National Fund a terror organization, calling it an attempt to derail American efforts to renew the peace process and a “fundamental” violation of the Oslo Accords.
In a statement posted to the PA official news outlet Wafa, Abbas said the announcement, during a visit to the region by special US envoy for negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, was “an Israeli attempt to obstruct and sabotage the US efforts and to belittle them.”
Greenblatt has been in the region since Monday, meeting with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier Thursday declared the fund to be a terrorist organization, accusing the Palestinian Authority-linked organization of providing “massive support” to terrorists and funneling “tens of millions of shekels” each month to Palestinian security prisoners and their families.
The fund is said to contain billions of dollars from wealthy Arab donors and profits from various investments. It is run by Ramzi Elias Yousef Khoury, a high-ranking member of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas said the move constituted “a fundamental violation of the Oslo Accords,” an agreement signed in 1993 that set the terms of the relationship between Israel and the PA. He said the PA “totally rejects” Liberman’s decision and called on the Israeli government to reverse it immediately, because it “would blow up the legal agreement [that underpins] the relationship with Israel.”
The PA leader further called for the international community to reject the decision “to protect the agreement that was sponsored by the US and the entire world.”
In announcing the decision, Liberman said “the fund has a crucial role in the financial support for Palestinian terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel, and it is used as the most significant route for transferring money.”
There is little transparency or oversight in the management of the fund, which is ultimately controlled by Abbas — something that grants him considerable influence and power.
According to a fact sheet put out by the Palestinian Embassy in Italy, “revenues for the fund come from financial contributions by Arab governments and peoples, quite substantial in the past.”
In order to declare the fund a terrorist organization, Liberman invoked Israel’s 2016 “Fight Against Terror” law.
The defense minister said that Israel will take steps to seize the fund’s “money and property” in order to prevent the support of terror.
The Palestinian National Fund pays both the families of terrorists killed in the course of carrying out attacks and terrorists currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons. The longer the prisoner’s sentence, the more money they earn from the PA each month.
As per Palestinian law, Ramallah pays nearly $170 million a year to prisoners and families of terrorists. Prisoners’ monthly allowances increase with the length of sentence. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the allowances range from $364 (NIS 1,500) a month for a term of up to three years, to $3,120 (NIS 13,000) for a term of 30 years and more. There is a monthly $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists.
The issue of PA support for terrorists and their families was also raised recently by the US Congress. US Senator Lindsey Graham proposed a bill last month to cut funding of the PA over the practice.
The bill, known as the Taylor Force Act, was first introduced last year by Graham with former Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. It was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, but never came up for a vote.
The legislation is named after former US army officer Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Tel Aviv. Force was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and was traveling with other students on a program studying global entrepreneurship.