Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis and then released by Israel as a goodwill gesture to smooth the path of peace talks were given at least $50,000 apiece as well as a comfortable monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority, the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement Monday.
The 26 prisoners who were set free October 30 — the second batch of a total of 104 prisoners slated to be released — had almost all been jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords and had carried out murderous attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The salary granted to each prisoner depended upon the length of his incarceration. Those who were held for over 25 years were entitled to $50,000, in addition to a position as a deputy minister or a promotion to the rank of major-general in the security forces, both of which earn monthly wages of NIS 14,000 (nearly $4,000).
Those who spent less than 25 years in Israeli prisons received the same lump sum as well as promotion to a deputy directorship in a government ministry or to the rank of brigadier-general, with a monthly wage of NIS 10,000 ($2,800) on the PA’s payroll, the report said.
According to information published in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in 2011, the average monthly stipend paid by the government to family members of Palestinian prisoners stands at NIS 3,129 ($862), higher than the average salary of a Palestinian civil servant, which is NIS 2,882 ($794). Two and a half percent of the PA’s budget for salaries goes to prisoners’ families, the document indicated.
Issa Abd Rabbo, the most veteran of the prisoners released, received a $60,000 bonus, with the PA reportedly also offering to foot the bill for a wedding should he choose to marry. He was convicted of murdering two Israeli hikers south of Jerusalem in 1984, after tying them up at gunpoint and placing bags over their heads.
In an article in The Times of Israel earlier this month, writer Edwin Black described the process by which American aid and financial programs “fungibly fund terrorist salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority” and noted that US money going to the PA “is regularly diverted to a program that systematically rewards terrorists with generous salaries. These transactions blatantly violate American laws that prohibit any US funding from benefiting terrorists. More than that, they grandly incentivize murder and terror.
He went on: “When a Palestinian is convicted of an act of terror against the Israeli government or innocent civilians, such as a bombing or a murder, that convicted terrorist automatically receives a generous salary from the Palestinian Authority. The salary is specified by the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner and 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 crisis, the PA pays the terrorists’ salaries first and foremost — before other fiscal obligations.”
The prisoner release, the second of four phased releases as part of US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, raised ire in Israel’s right wing and among victims of terror who opposed the move.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians restarted at the end of August and have continued with covert meetings. Despite a US-imposed ban on leaks, reports suggest that that the negotiations are stalled over key issues such as continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.