US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging terrorism after two Israeli soldiers were killed on Thursday in a shooting attack in the West Bank.
Noting a string of attacks over the past week, Friedman assailed the PA’s policy of paying stipends to the families of Palestinian assailants caught or killed committing “heinous acts” of terrorism against Israelis.
“The PA can be a political body OR a sponsor of terror, not both,” the American ambassador wrote on Twitter.
Friedman has previously criticized the payments by the PA, which critics charge encourage Palestinians to carry out attacks on Israelis.
In the past week #Palestinian terrorists have killed or wounded 14 #Israelis in multiple attacks. The Pal Authority maintains laws that will compensate these terrorists and their families for their heinous acts. The PA can be a political body OR a sponsor of terror, not both.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) December 13, 2018
His tweet came hours after two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third seriously wounded in a terror attack at a bus stop in the central West Bank. An Israeli woman was also seriously injured in the shooting.
Also Thursday, two Border Police officers were lightly injured in a stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City. One of them shot and killed the assailant.
On Sunday, seven Israelis were injured in a shooting outside the Ofra settlement, including a pregnant woman whose baby was delivered by an emergency Caesarian-section but died on Wednesday.
The West Bank also saw a string of car-ramming attacks this week.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office on Thursday condemned recent violence, but did not refer explicitly to the Palestinian attacks. It also blamed the prevailing “climate” driving the uptick in West Bank violence on Israeli military raids in Palestinian cities, settler incitement against the PA president, and the stalled peace process.
Families of Palestinians who meet the PA’s definition of a prisoner are entitled to a monthly payment, according to the PA Prisoners and Liberated Prisoners law. The law defines a prisoner as “anyone in the occupation’s prisons for participating in the struggle against the occupation.” Many Palestinians who the PA defines as prisoners have carried out terrorist attacks against Israelis and others.
Both the United States and Israel have passed legislation over the past year targeting the PA’s practice of paying the families of security prisoners, including terrorists. The Trump administration has since cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians amid the PA’s boycott of the White House for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
According to Israel’s Defense Ministry, the PA in 2017 paid NIS 687 million ($198 million) to the so-called “martyrs’ families fund” and NIS 550 million ($160 million) to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club — some 7 percent of its overall budget.
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.
Abbas has condemned the US and Israeli laws and vowed to continue to make the payments.