The secretary general of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office last month honored the mother of a veteran Bethlehem prisoner convicted for the murder of two Israelis, Palestinian Media Watch revealed on Monday.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim on March 13 visited the Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, where he conveyed the salutations of Abbas to the mother of Issa Abd Rabbo who murdered two Israeli university students 29 years ago, the PA’s official WAFA news agency reported.
“Abdel Rahim… praised Um-Issa’s steadfastness and sacrifices during the past 30 years of patience and endurance,” read the WAFA report.
Abd Rabbo is serving two life sentences for the murders of Ron Levy and Revital Seri, both 23, on October 22, 1984. Abd Rabbo came upon the two hiking south of Jerusalem, tied them up at gunpoint, placed bags over their heads and shot them dead.
Abbas has recently stated that the issue of prisoners in Israeli jails tops his political agenda. The PA has placed the release of prisoners arrested before the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 — such as Abd Rabbo — as a precondition for resuming negotiations with Israel. The PA argues that Israel agreed to the release of these prisoners in previous agreements.
Mahmoud Abbas recently stated that the issue of prisoners in Israeli jails tops his political agenda
Israeli media reported earlier this month that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry that he would be willing to release “veteran” Fatah prisoners as a goodwill gesture towards the PA.
But Kadoura Fares, a Fatah official who heads of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a nongovernmental organization dealing with prisoners’ rights, said he has not received any official notice of such a gesture.
“I do not believe the PA will forgo this condition,” Fares told The Times of Israel, adding that the PA is also demanding the release of chronically ill prisoners “who will be released straight to hospital.”
Of a total of 4,800 prisoners, 106 were sentenced before the signing of the Oslo Accords, Fares said.
Asked whether Palestinian law, or indeed Palestinian society, differentiated between prisoners who targeted Israeli soldiers and those who targeted Israeli civilians, Fares was unequivocal.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “This is a debate we do not have.”
According to information published in 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 indicates.
Fares said that a 2004 law indicates the exact sum paid to each family, fluctuating according to the number of dependents the prisoner has. He noted that a single prisoner with two parents will receive just NIS 1,400 ($386) a month.
Over the past year, Abd Rabbo’s mother was publicly honored by at least two Palestinian ministers: Minister of Culture Siham Barghouti and Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Karake; as well as by a number of programs on national TV, Palestinian Media Watch reported.
In one program, she described her feelings upon hearing of her son’s actions: “Praise Allah, he has a great reputation. I am proud of my son… I wish I had 10 others like him.”