Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday the PA will continue to pay stipends to the families of Palestinian security prisoners and slain terrorists even if it has to spend its last penny to do so.
“We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about,” he told representatives of a Palestinian prisoners advocacy group.
Israel has called on Palestinians for years to halt the stipends, which benefit roughly 35,000 families of Palestinians killed, wounded, or jailed in the conflict with Israel, many of them accused of involvement in terror. Israel says the stipends encourage violence.
Earlier this month, the Knesset passed a law to cut funds Israel transfers to the PA respective to the amount Ramallah pays to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed during attacks.
But Abbas has remained defiant.
“Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families,” he said Monday.
“We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they have priority in everything.”
He also voiced praise for the prisoners’ movement, saying it was “paving the way for the independence of Palestine.”
At the same meeting senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, a former head of Palestinian Preventive Security forces in the West Bank, lauded Abbas for his steadfast stance.
“You are under great pressure not to put the issue of martyrs and prisoners in your priorities,” he said, “but your determination to consider their cause as your top issue reflects the extent to which the suffering of prisoners weighs upon your mind.”
Immediately after the new Israeli law was passed at the beginning of the month, Abbas said the PA “will not allow anyone to interfere with the money that Israel is against us paying to the families of martyrs and prisoners.”
The Palestinians contend the number of stipend recipients involved in deadly attacks is a small fraction of those aided by the fund. They say that the tax revenue collected by Israel for them under past peace agreements is their money and that the PA has a responsibility to all of its citizens like any other government.
The stipends amount to approximately $330 million, or about 7 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s $5 billion budget in 2018.
Agencies contributed to this report.