A Palestinian official on Wednesday denied accusations that the Palestinian Authority had increased its payments to security prisoners, including terrorists, and their families.
The accusations came from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli non-governmental organization that closely monitors the Palestinian press, and were later echoed by US Middle East Peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the head of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.
PMW said in a report it published on July 3 that the PA increased salaries to security prisoners and their families in the first five months of 2019 by more than 11%, compared to figures from 2018.
Greenblatt posted the allegation on Twitter on Wednesday, accusing the PA of prioritizing pay to “murderers” over healthcare for its citizens.
But PA Prisoner Affairs Commission Spokesman Hassan Abd Rabbo denied this was true. “We categorically deny those accusations. We have not increased our payments in that way,” he said.
Israel maintains that the Palestinian policy of paying security prisoners and their families incentivizes and rewards violent attacks against Israelis.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership contends that it seeks to provide social welfare to Palestinian families and compensate for what it describes as an unfair military justice system.
PA Finance Ministry documents posted on its website indicate that Ramallah paid approximately NIS 40 million ($11 million) every month to security inmates and their families between January and December 2018 and January and April 2019.
The papers, however, show that Ramallah paid NIS 77.1 million ($21 million) to security inmates and their families in May 2019.
Abd Rabbo contended that the significant increase in the payouts in May was because the PA preemptively paid June salaries in May for “technical reasons.”
He did not elaborate on what he meant by “technical reasons,” but said that security prisoners and their families would not be receiving a second salary for June and said that he confirmed the matter with officials at the PA Finance Ministry.
The PA Finance Ministry spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Abd Rabbo also argued that PMW had misinterpreted the high figures for May.
Maurice Hirsh, who co-authored the PMW reports, said he was unconvinced.
“I find it hard to believe this logic,” Hirsh said, noting that PMW, which closely tracks the PA budget, has never seen Ramallah make a double payment in the past.
He also questioned why such a measure would not be covered by the Palestinian press, which has not reported on the double payments.
Responding to the PA official’s denial, Greenblatt stood by his initial comment.
“The fact of the matter is that the Palestinian Authority is choosing to pay terrorists and their families at the same time as they cut pay to civil servants,” he said in an emailed statement, referring to recent paycuts to PA employees in the wake of a financial dispute with Israel.