Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declared the Palestinian National Fund to be a terrorist organization on Thursday, accusing the Palestinian Authority-linked organization of providing “massive support” to terrorists and funneling “tens of millions of shekels” each month to Palestinian security prisoners and their families.
“The fund has a crucial role in the financial support for Palestinian terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel, and it is used as the most significant route for transferring money,” Liberman said in a statement.
The Palestinian National Fund is said to contain billions of dollars from wealthy Arab donors and profits from various investments. It is run by Ramzi Elias Yousef Khoury, a high-ranking member of the Palestinian Authority.
There is little transparency or oversight in the management and use of the fund, which is ultimately controlled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas — something that grants him considerable influence and power.
According to a fact sheet put out by the Palestinian Embassy in Italy, “revenues for the fund come from financial contributions by Arab governments and peoples, quite substantial in the past.”
In order to declare the fund a terrorist organization, Liberman invoked Israel’s 2016 “Fight Against Terror” law.
The defense minister said that Israel will take steps to seize the fund’s “money and property” in order to prevent the support of terror.
The Palestinian National Fund pays both the families of terrorists killed in the course of carrying out attacks and terrorists currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons. The longer the prisoner’s sentence, the more money they earn from the PA each month.
Palestinian Authority leaders are open about their policy of providing salaries and other benefits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including those convicted by Israeli civil courts of murder and terrorism, as well as to their families if they are killed while carrying out their attacks.
As per Palestinian law, Ramallah pays nearly $170 million a year to prisoners and families of terrorists. Prisoners’ monthly allowances increase with the length of sentence. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the allowances range from $364 (NIS 1,500) a month for a term of up to three years, to $3,120 (NIS 13,000) for a term of 30 years and more. There is a monthly $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists.
The issue of PA support for terrorists and their families was also raised recently by the US Congress. US Senator Lindsey Graham proposed a bill last month to cut funding of the PA over the practice.
The bill, known as the Taylor Force Act, was first introduced last year by Graham with former Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. It was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, but never came up for a vote.
The legislation is named after former US army officer Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Tel Aviv. Force was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and was traveling with other students on a program studying global entrepreneurship.
“Why is the Palestinian Authority paying young Palestinians to commit acts of terror against innocent Americans like Taylor Force or Israelis? The Palestinians need to decide – do they condemn these horrible acts or do they reward them?” he said.
Late last year, the British government’s Department for International Development froze part of its aid to the Palestinian Authority over concerns the aid was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists.
In September 2016, the German government for the first time admitted that the Palestinian Authority likely grants financial support to terrorists and their families, and vowed to further investigate the matter.
As first reported in The Times of Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin responded to repeated queries by an opposition lawmaker by acknowledging that funds for so-called “martyrs” and Palestinian prisoners sitting in Israeli jails for security-related offenses come not only from the Palestine Liberation Organization but partially from the PA’s own budget.
Germany supports the PA annually with about €160 million ($179 million), but insists that the money only goes to specific development projects and not to the “salaries” for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons or to the relatives of killed terrorists.