Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday ordered that the family of a Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Israelis be paid more than $40,000 and be given new housing, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Ramallah Governor Laila Ghannam, an Abbas appointee, met with the family of Muhannad Halabi and gave them some 30,000 Jordanian Dinars ($42,000), reportedly to help them cover housing costs since their home was destroyed by the IDF following the killings, Kan said.
Ghannam also told the family that Abbas had instructed his security services to help them find permanent housing. Home demolitions are a controversial policy that the IDF says helps deter future terror attacks.
The payments are the first high-profile payments to terrorist families since the Biden administration took office, despite claims that the Palestinians were willing to rethink the controversial policy as part of an effort to improve relations with Washington.
Halabi killed two Israelis, Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Banita, and injured Banita’s wife, Adele, and their 2-year-old son in a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 3, 2015.
He was shot and killed by Israeli security forces.
Ahead of Biden’s inauguration, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel that Ramallah was willing to alter the way it pays stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, as well as the families of terrorists and others killed by Israelis, in a bid to improve ties with Washington and Europe.
Because the PA hands out more money for longer sentences in Israeli prisons, those incarcerated for the most brutal terror attacks receive more funding from Ramallah.
The altered policy would base the stipends on prisoners’ financial needs rather than the length of their sentence, potentially marking a shift away from what has long been a sticking point for the PA’s detractors.
The practice of paying allowances to those convicted of carrying out terror attacks and to the families of those killed while carrying out attacks — often referred to by some Israeli officials as a pay-to-slay policy — has been pilloried by critics as incentivizing terror.
Palestinian leaders have long defended the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare and necessary compensation for victims of Israel’s military justice system in the West Bank.
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.
Ramallah may have paid as much as NIS 600 million ($181 million) in 2020 in salaries to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for security offenses — including terrorism — and their families.
Over the past year, officials in the US and the EU have warned Ramallah that a failure to substantively change the policy would prove a major obstacle to improved relations.
Ramallah is bidding to come into compliance with the 2018 Taylor Force Act, which suspended US aid to the PA as long as it continued to implement the existing prisoner payment policy.
Abbas severed relations with the Trump administration after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May 2018. He also preemptively rejected Trump’s January 2020 “vision” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The administration, while repeatedly urging Abbas to reengage, drastically reduced state funding for the Palestinians. The Biden Administration has begun to restore aid to the Palestinians and warm ties.