Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Wednesday on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the killing a day earlier of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, shot dead by terrorists in a drive-by shooting attack in the northern West Bank.
In separate talks with the foreign ministers of Ireland and the Netherlands, both currently visiting Israel, Netanyahu slammed Abbas’s silence on the attack, along with the Palestinian Authority’s continued payments to convicted terrorists according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Shevach, 35, was killed Tuesday night in a drive-by shooting attack as he drove on a main highway south of Nablus. The army launched a large-scale search for his killer, but no arrests have been announced.
“The prime minister said that here the true source of the conflict is revealed, which is the refusal to recognize the State of Israel in any boundaries accompanied by the encouragement of the murder of Israelis wherever they are,” a PMO statement read.
Netanyahu also urged Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, and Halbe Zijlstra, from the Netherlands, to push for Abbas to cease paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families, the statement added.
Israeli officials say payments to the families of attackers encourages further violence and have regularly called for a halt to them.
On Tuesday the Israeli Defense Ministry said the Palestinian Authority had paid out NIS 1.2 billion ($350 million) last year in such payments.
“The Palestinian Authority pays over a billion shekels a year to terrorists and their relatives, thereby encouraging and perpetuating terrorism,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement. “The moment the payments are set based on the severity of the crime and the prison sentence, namely that those who murder and are sentenced to life receive a lot more, this is [tantamount to] funding terror attacks against Israelis.”
The bill, which targets cash payments by the PA to jailed or injured terrorists and their relatives, will also apply to Palestinians who committed other crimes for which they are being compensated by the PA, the ministry said in a statement.
The Palestine Liberation Organization gives monthly payments to all Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel, no matter the reason for their incarceration, and also to families of so-called “martyrs” — a term used by the PLO to refer to anyone killed by an Israeli, whether the person was killed attacking Israelis or an innocent bystander.
A recent report published by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for administering civilian affairs in the West Bank and the crossings with Gaza, said that around one-third of the Palestinian prisoners are “directly responsible for the murder of Israelis.”
According to the Defense Ministry, the Palestinian Authority in 2017 paid NIS 687 million ($198 million) to the so-called “martyrs’ families fund” and NIS 550 million ($160 million) to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club — some 7 percent of its overall budget.
Palestinian security prisoners serving 20-30 year sentences for carrying out terror attacks are eligible for a lifetime NIS 10,000 ($1,900) monthly stipend, the Defense Ministry said, citing PA figures. Those prisoners who receive a 3-5 year sentence get a monthly wage of NIS 2,000 ($580). Palestinian prisoners who are married, have children, live in Jerusalem, or hold Israeli citizenship receive additional payments.
For Palestinians, such payments are a key source of income for families.
Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, did not dispute the figures but said that the Palestinian people overwhelmingly supported the payments.
“We stress the commitment of the Palestinian people to the prisoners and families of the prisoners. This is a legal, moral and humanitarian obligation.”