Four banks are again refusing to dispense stipends that the Palestine Liberation Organization pays to convicted terrorists, ostensibly for fear of Israeli sanctions that go into effect in mid-July, according to a Monday press statement put out by the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, WAFA.
The statement, which was republished by many Palestinian news outlets, did not name the four banks. One banks that was previously said to have taken a similar measure in May is the Jordan-based Cairo Amman Bank.
Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission director Qadri Abu Bakr was quoted as saying he was demanding that the banks pay the stipends, adding that the banks were violating the instructions of the Palestinian Authority government.
The refusal to dispense the money came after two months in which the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay any of its employees due to a massive fiscal crisis.
The Israeli government has long decried the tens of millions of dollars the PLO pays every year to Palestinians convicted of terrorism and to families of dead assailants, which Israel says encourages terror attacks by offering a direct incentive to carry them out.
After an Israeli military edict that criminalized PA government funding for convicted terrorists, several banks closed or froze prisoners’ accounts in the West Bank and Jordan in early May. Abu Bakr later announced that the salaries had been dispensed, and Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz had suspended the implementation of the edict until mid-July.
Abu Bakr also said at the time that efforts were being made to create a financial institution directly controlled by the PLO to handle the prisoners’ accounts, rather than placing them in private banks. This measure, Abu Bakr indicated, would allow them to skirt Israeli sanctions.
Ramallah has vowed to continue the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare and compensation for what it claims is an unfair military justice system.
The military order, signed in February, applies substantial parts of Israel’s anti-terror law to the West Bank. The law states that any person or body handing financial aid to anyone, with the purpose being to facilitate, advance, fund or reward terror-related offenses, is committing a crime that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine.
Israel has previously deducted the presumed total worth of the stipends from tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, prompting a long standoff with Ramallah.
There are 13 banks operating in the West Bank areas ruled by the Palestinian Authority. Seven of them are Palestinian-owned, five are Jordanian and one is Egyptian.