Netanyahu denies he allowed Palestinian payments to prisoners
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Netanyahu denies he allowed Palestinian payments to prisoners

Adviser to Abbas claims Israel signed deal in 2014 to allow stipends to continue through PLO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel's 69th Independence Day, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel's 69th Independence Day, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday rejected claims that Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed in 2014 to a formula allowing the Palestinian leadership to continue making payments to families of Israeli-held security prisoners.

In a statement, the PMO called the claims “another Palestinian invention, which never happened, which was intended to distract from the discussion of the demand to stop the Palestinian Authority funding terrorists.”

Earlier Israel Radio reported that Ahmad Majdalan, a senior PLO official and adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told the radio station that in May 2014, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator Yitzchak Molcho, PLO Secretary General and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US Secretary of State John Kerry signed a document allowing the Palestinians to pay salaries to prisoners’ families from the Palestinian Liberation Organization fund instead of from the Palestinian Authority treasury.

It was for this reason that the prisoner affairs department was split off from the Palestinian government some time ago, but was allowed to continue within the framework of the PLO. Abbas is head of both the PLO and the PA.

The Palestinians were reportedly planning on showing this document to US President Trump during his meeting with Abbas on Wednesday when he broached the issue with them.

President Donald Trump welcomes Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump welcomes Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “the president raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror and to their families and emphasized the need to resolve this issue.” However, he did not mention how the Palestinian delegation responded.

Last week, Channel 2 news quoted PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe saying that Abbas “outright rejects” the Israeli demands to halt its payments to prisoners.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of terror offenses and crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel’s system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the salaries paid to imprisoned terrorists by the PA constitute a major obstacle to peace.

On Tuesday, three GOP senators urged the US president to push the Palestinian leader on the PA’s cash payments to the families of terrorists.

“We urge you to raise this matter with President Abbas during his visit, and to make clear to him that the PA’s practice of diverting aid money to terrorists and their families must end,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.

Signed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the message argues that the United States cannot treat the Palestinians as a peace partner so long as they continue to reward terrorist activities.

“Morally it must end because the United States cannot be complicit in incentivizing terror,” the three said. “And strategically it must end because the PA will never convince Americans, the Congress, or Israel that it is serious about peace while it is still funding terror.”

The Republican legislators said the Palestinian Authority spends roughly $300 million annually on payments to terrorists and their families, including in the case of Taylor Force, a US army officer who was stabbed to death while visiting Israel in March 2016.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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