The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned a move by US senators to slash aid to the Palestinian Authority over its stipends to terrorists and their families, saying the proposed legislation amounted to financial extortion that would curtail Palestinian rights.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas chaired a Saturday meeting of the PLO Executive Committee to review the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval last week for a bill to cut US funding to the PA if it does not stop paying wages to terrorists in Israeli prisons.
The Taylor Force Act, named after a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016, will now advance to the entire Senate for review. Israel has also demanded that the PA stop paying wages to the families of terrorists via intermediary organizations.
In a statement following the PLO meeting that was posted to the Facebook page of the Fatah Movement’s Bethlehem Branch on Monday, the PLO denounced the proposed act as “unacceptable.” A translation of parts of the statement was provided by the Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch on Tuesday.
“The [PLO] Executive Committee condemned the legislators of the American Congress and their positions towards the Palestinian people… and sees the American Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ approval of stopping American aid to the PA – if it does not stop the aid to the families of the Martyrs (Shahids) and prisoners – as an unacceptable act that will negatively affect everything that is connected to the Palestinians’ rights,” the statement said.
In particular, the bill will impact Palestinians’ “right to life and protection from the occupation army’s violations, and [from] the summary executions that it carries out in the streets and military checkpoints of the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. [The Executive Committee] emphasized the rejection of this [American] extortion and the rejection of using the tool of financial aid to extract political concessions.”
The PLO vowed to “continue its national, moral, and humanitarian responsibility towards the occupation’s victims, the victims of organized state terror, and the victims of the herds of settlers and their terror organizations, which the government of Israel supports and provides with protection and patronage, with the blessings of the legislators of the American Congress…
“The [PLO] Executive Committee sent a blessing of appreciation and pride to the freedom prisoners of war for their legendary stance, and emphasized that their release is at the top of its agenda.”
Passed by a vote of 17-4, the legislation received bipartisan support. Every Republican member of the committee supported the measure, as well as several Democrats, including Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the panel’s ranking member, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
Last week the White House said the administration would work with Congress to ensure the legislation does not interfere with attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
The United States currently gives the PA nearly $500 million in annual aid. The legislation would not affect the portions designated for security assistance — roughly $60 million — and for humanitarian aid.
Under the terms of the bill the State Department would also be mandated to put out an annual, declassified report detailing the PA’s practices regarding cash payments that reward terrorism.
According to a recently published Israeli report, the Palestinian Authority’s 2017 budget for payments to inmates in Israeli prisons and so-called “families of martyrs” is equal in sum to about half of the foreign budgetary aid Ramallah expects to receive this year.
Moreover, the PA Finance Ministry’s 2017 budget, published on its website earlier in July, said that salaries to incarcerated and released Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are convicted for terrorism, will amount to NIS 552 million ($153.4 million) this calendar year.