WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday said that Palestinian plans to pay the family of a terrorist who killed an American-Israeli last week showed why the US was correct in cutting funding for East Jerusalem hospitals.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said there was no reason for the US to fund the hospitals when it merely allowed the PA to free up money to support terrorists and their families.
“The United States government does not believe that it is responsible for paying for the hospital bills,” Nauert told reporters. “The Palestinian Authority is solely responsible for paying for the treatment of Palestinians in those hospitals. Historically, they have neglected to pay the bills at their hospital. Our funding in the past has generously shored them up.”
The PA, she went on to say, has “failed to prioritize paying its debts and has instead put money into funding these payments to the families of terrorists.”
The comments came after The Times of Israel reported Wednesday that the family of Khalil Jabarin, the 17-year-old terrorist who stabbed Imerican-born Israel Ari Fuld to death on Sunday, would be eligible for a monthly salary from the PA once the correct paperwork had been completed.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman earlier on Thursday lambasted the PA for the stipends, saying such payments were “unconscionable” and said the PA’s practice of making payments to terrorists and their families was an obstacle to peace.
“The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Commission has confirmed that the family of the terrorist who murdered Ari Fuld is ‘eligible to receive a monthly salary’ as compensation for his incarceration,” Friedman tweeted. “This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace.”
The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Commission has confirmed that the family of the terrorist who murdered Ari Fuld is “eligible to receive a monthly salary” as compensation for his incarceration. This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) September 20, 2018
Speaking to The Times of Israel, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Prisoner Affairs’ Commission had earlier denied an Israeli TV report that the PA had already sent a multi-thousand shekel advance to the Jabarin family, but made clear that such regular monthly payments would ultimately be made.
“We are not bashful or secretive about our support for our prisoners,” said the spokesman, Hassan Abd Rabbod. “The [Jabarin] family would be eligible to receive a monthly salary of NIS 1,400 ($390), if their son is not freed by Israel and it completes all the necessary documents.”
Abd Rabbo also said that if Jabarin remains in prison for several years, the sum his family receives would increase.
“We have heard that report,” Nauert said. “We are looking into that. We condemn the Palestinian Authority for paying the families of terrorists.”
“Money is fungible,” she said citing the recently passed Taylor Force Act, which Trump signed into law earlier this year. “The money that we provide to different entities or groups within the Palestinian Authority can be used for other things, so we see that.”
“We hope that the Palestinian Authority will choose to spend its money on its own people at the hospital. The United States should no longer pick up that tab,” Nauert said.
The Taylor Force Act, named after an American who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in 2016, prohibits the US government from providing aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ceases its practice of compensating terrorists and their families.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it would halt $25 million in aid to East Jerusalem hospitals, saying that money would go to other regional “priorities.”
Those cuts came amid a wave of the US slashing financial support for Palestinians, including to the Palestinian Authority itself and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The White House has indicated those funds will remain withheld until the Palestinians re-engage with the administration to broker a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
According to the Israeli 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.
Palestinian prisoners serving 20- to 30-year sentences for carrying out terror attacks are eligible for a lifetime NIS 10,000 ($2,772) monthly stipend, the Defense Ministry said, citing PA figures. Those prisoners who receive a three- to five-year sentence get a monthly wage of NIS 2,000 ($554). Palestinian prisoners who are married, have children, live in Jerusalem, or hold Israeli citizenship receive additional payments.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.