PA, PLO Officials: “Allowances To Prisoners Will Continue”

‘This Issue Is Not Subject To U.S.-Israeli Extortion’

By: Y. Yehoshua and C. Jacob* MEMRI

Since its establishment, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been paying allowances to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons, both past and present, as well as to the wounded and to the families of individuals “martyred,” including in carrying out attacks against Israelis. Recently, the PA has come under pressure to stop these payments. According to reports, during PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s May 3, 2017 visit to the White House, the Trump administration demanded that the PA stop making these payments. Likewise, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently confirmed that the issue of stopping the payments has been discussed by U.S. President Trump and ‘Abbas. On June 13, 2017, Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that during his visit to Bethlehem on May 23, 2017, the PA had promised him that both it and the PLO had “changed their policy… and their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who have committed murder or violence against others… We’ve been very clear with them that this is simply is not acceptable to us.”[1]

Israel too has for some time been calling on the PA to stop paying allowances to the prisoners and the families of martyrs, arguing that this encourages continued terrorism. Just recently, the Israeli Knesset discussed a bill to deduct the sum of the allowances to the prisoners and families of martyrs from the tax revenues that Israel collects and hands over to the PA every month.

The calls for stopping the allowances to past and present prisoners are opposed by PA and PLO officials, who declared that they will not be stopped and that support for the prisoners and for the wounded and for the families of the martyrs is “a clear national duty that cannot be compromised.” The head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, ‘Issa Qaraqe’, said that the PA allowances to the prisoners, the wounded and the families of martyrs are “a red line and a fundamental principle on which we will in no way compromise.” Qaraqe’ also criticized U.S. administration officials, stating that their announcements on the subject of the allowances constituted “U.S.-Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the PA.” Additionally, “senior Palestinian sources” told the Al-Quds daily that Tillerson’s statements were incorrect.

To date, the PA has made no official decision on whether to stop the allowances. Nevertheless, payments to 277 former prisoners, most of them from Hamas, were recently stopped – but this was aimed at pressuring Hamas, as part of the severe intra-Palestinian tension.

This paper will review the PA and PLO reactions to calls for stopping the allowances to Palestinian prisoners past and present, the wounded and the families of martyr.
Image: ramallah.news

PA Support For Prisoners Past And Present In Accordance With Laws And Government Decisions: Monthly Allowance And Benefits

The allowances paid by the PA to incarcerated and released prisoners and to the families of “martyrs” were described in detail by MEMRI president Yigal Carmon in a July 6, 2016 testimony to the U.S. Congress (See MEMRI Daily Brief No. 97, MEMRI President Yigal Carmon’s Testimony To House Committee On Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2016: Palestinian Authority Support For Imprisoned, Released, And Wounded Terrorists And Families Of ‘Martyrs,’ July 6, 2016).

The support for the prisoners is mainly anchored in two laws from 2004, Law No. 14 and Law No. 19, and in a 2013 amendment to the latter law. Law No. 14 defines the prisoners and released prisoners as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society” (Article 2) and declares the need to “grant the financial rights of the prisoner and his family” (Article 4). It also stipulates that the PA shall “grant every incarcerated prisoner a monthly allowance, without discrimination” (Article 6).

The laws and amendment stipulate that the PA must provide the prisoners with financial support and with education for them and their children, and that upon their release it must see to their rehabilitation and employ them in PA institutions. The laws grant the prisoners a series of benefits, including exemption from various fees for education, professional training and healthcare, as well as a monthly allowance during their incarceration, as well as a clothing allowance. The laws state further that, in case of released prisoners employed as PA civil servants, the years spent in prison are to be calculated as part of their tenure.

Over the years the PA government has taken a series of decisions for implementing these laws and setting out the amounts to be paid in monthly allowances, special grants, exemptions from healthcare, tuition and professional training fees, etc.[2]

The PA stresses the importance it ascribes to the issue of the prisoners, and ‘Abbas has often reiterated that “the prisoners are the number one priority.”[3] In accordance with this commitment, the PA invests immense sums in support for the prisoners and their families.

PA Government Decision No. 23, from 2010, specified the prisoners’ monthly allowances according to length of sentence. The sums, which have not changed since then, are as follows:[4]

 

Up to 3 yearsNIS1,400 (=~ $400)[5]
3-5 yearsNIS2,000 (=~ $570)
5-10 yearsNIS4,000 (=~ $1,130)
10-15 yearsNIS6,000 (=~ $1,130)
15-20 yearsNIS7,000 (=~ $2,000)
20-25 yearsNIS 8,000 (=~ $2,230)
25-30 yearsNIS 10,000 (=~ $2,830)
30 years and moreNIS12,000 (=~ $3,400)
Supplement for married prisonersNIS300 (=~ $85)
Supplement for prisoners with underage childrenNIS50 per child (=~ $14)
Supplement for prisoners from JerusalemNIS300 (=~ $85)
Supplement for prisoners who are Israeli citizensNIS500 (=~ $140)

 
Table of prisoners’ monthly allowances (source: Al-Waqai’ Al-Falastiniyya, Issue 90, March 30, 2011, p. 106)

Head Of Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs: Halting Of Allowances To 277 Released Prisoners – A Political Move Against Hamas

In recent days it was reported that 277 of the prisoners released in 2011 in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit deal did not receive their allowances last month. This move, of stopping the allowances of these Shalit deal prisoners, most of whom belong to Hamas, is clearly motivated by internal political considerations, although at the same time it may be a response to U.S. and Israeli pressure to halt payments to prisoners.

“Against the backdrop of the intense tension between Fatah and Hamas, the withholding of payments can be a pressure tactic employed by ‘Abbas against Hamas, which is now marking a decade after its takeover of Gaza. This move joins other measures ‘Abbas has taken against Hamas during the present month of Ramadan, such as asking Israel to cut the supply of electricity to Gaza, for which the PA pays. The head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, ‘Issa Qaraqe’,[6] clarified: “Stopping the allowances of 277 prisoners is a result of problems with Hamas and of the schism [between Hamas and Fatah]. Hamas regards itself as a government and refuses to end the schism. All those whose salaries have been stopped are Hamas members from the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora. There are thousands of Hamas prisoners, and only 277 of them did not receive their allowances last month. The prisoners selected [for this move] were those released in the Wafa Al-Ahrar deal, [namely] the Gilad Shalit deal of 2011. Nobody has told us what this is about, you can ask the government. I [only] know that the reason is a dispute with Hamas, and the government should clarify this. I asked them but received no answer.” PA Government spokesman Yousuf Al-Mahmoud said regarding this affair: “No comment. I have no information about the stopping of the allowances of the 277 prisoners. This issue was not discussed in the last government session.”[7] Hamas’s mouthpiece Al-Risalah likewise stated that the withholding of the prisoners’ allowances was “motivated by [their] political affiliation.”[8]

In response to the halting of the allowances, a spokesman of the released prisoners said at a press conference: “We call on the Palestinian leadership to revoke its decision to stop the allowances, because this harms a sector that sacrificed for the sake of the Palestinian cause. We, the Palestinian prisoners, have never been part of the Palestinian schism and have never called to continue it. We long for an end to the conflicts between Fatah and Hamas. ‘Abbas and the Palestinian leadership must disassociate the issue of the allowances of prisoners from Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the diaspora from any political disputes.”[9]

It should be noted that this is not the first time the PA has used prisoners’ allowances as a political tool. In December 2015 it cut the allowances of released prisoners from several movements, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front, by 40% (from NIS1,300 to NIS800) due to political tension between these movements and the PA.[10]

Head Of Palestinian Commission For Detainees And Ex-Detainees Affairs: We Will Continue Allowances To Families Of Martyrs And Prisoners

Many PA officials said that the PA would not stop its payments to the prisoners, the wounded and the families of martyrs. ‘Issa Qaraqe’ promised that the PA would continue the payments, saying: “We will continue paying the families of the martyrs and prisoners and will not succumb to Israeli pressure. We will continue aiding them, for they are victims of the occupation.”[11]

Several days later, Qaraqe’ stated: “The PA allowances to the families of the prisoners, the martyrs, and the wounded have not been stopped. We will continue to defend them because they are a red line and a fundamental principle on which we will in no way compromise.” He went on to criticize U.S. administration officials, saying that “their declarations on the matter of the allowances to the prisoners constitute U.S.-Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the PA – a kind of new war.”[12]
‘Issa Qaraqe’ (Image: maannews.com)

PLO Executive Committee Member: “The Issue Of The Allowances Is Not Subject To U.S.-Israeli Extortion”

PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani refuted the U.S. officials’ statements about the prisoner allowances, saying: “The [Palestinian] leadership has not complied [with the demand] to stop the allowances of the prisoners, martyrs, and wounded. Even if there was [such an] American demand, that does not mean that the PA would comply with it. This issue is not subject to U.S.-Israeli extortion… Our duty to pay the allowances to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners is moral, national, and social, and it is a red line that no one will cross.”[13]

Sources reported that the demand to stop the payments also came up during President Trump’s special representative for negotiations Jason Greenblatt’s visit to the PA areas in recent months, but according to the sources the Palestinian leadership completely rejected the demand, explaining that “stopping the allowances could create fertile ground for [terror] operations against Israel and an atmosphere of instability, which nobody wants.”[14] Top Palestinian sources told the Al-Quds daily that the PA would not change its policy and would not stop its payments to the prisoners and the families of the martyrs, and that what Tillerson had said was incorrect. One of the sources said: “It is the Israeli lobby in the U.S., which has joined the campaign of Israeli incitement against the Palestinian leadership, the PA, and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, that is behind such demands, with which the Palestinian side cannot comply, and [the latter] has already reiterated that the issue of the martyrs and prisoners is a general national [principle], and this has been emphasized many times by President Mahmoud ‘Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.”[15]

Palestinian National Council: Supporting The Prisoners And The Families Of Martyrs Is A National Duty

Prominent figures and institutions in the PA and the PLO also protested against Israel’s intent to deduct the allowances to the prisoners and families of martyrs from the tax funds that it collects and transfers monthly to the PA, threatening to sue Israel. ‘Issa Qaraqe’ said: “The occupation authorities have no right to withhold tax revenues [owed to] the Palestinians… We will sue Israel in international courts for deducting the sum paid to the prisoners and to the martyrs’ families from the tax funds [it owes] the PA.” He added that Israel is acting to “delegitimize the Palestinian struggle and define it as terror by stealing the prisoners’ allowances under the cover of law.”[16]

In a June 12, 2017 announcement on the subject, the Palestinian National Council said: “The support and sponsorship for the hero prisoners and their families and for the families of the hero martyrs and the wounded are a clear national duty that cannot be compromised.” The PNC rejected the Knesset bill, calling it part of “the framework of a series of measures, laws, and policy aimed at harming the sanctity of the struggle of the prisoners, the martyrs, and the wounded, at negotiating over their rights, and also at pressuring the PA to stop paying the allowances to the families of the Palestinian martyrs, prisoners, and wounded.”[17]

On June 13, 2017, at its weekly session, the PA government, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, discussed the issue, and said: “These [tax] funds belong to the Palestinians and are not charity given by Israel… Deducting [the sum of the allowances] from the [tax] funds is a piratical act by it [Israel] against the Palestinian funds.”[18]

Qadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club stated that for years Israel had been trying to influence countries donating to the Palestinians not to transfer to the PA funds that it claims are being used for incitement and terrorism, but had failed: “Israel is trying to label the Palestinian struggle as terrorism, and to bring the prisoners and the martyrs who fought for freedom into the war on terror… The law [sic; the bill to deduct the funds from tax revenues] is aimed at harming the Palestinian laws connected to the legacy of the PLO that has met and continues to meet its responsibility towards the families of the martyrs and of the prisoners since 1966; it has never stopped doing so and never will.”[19]

PA Education Ministry: We Will Give The Palestinian Prisoners Access To Higher Education At Al-Quds Open University

Support for the prisoners also took the form of education opportunities. On June 12, 2017, PA Education Minister Sabri Saidam decided that the Palestinian prisoners will be allowed to complete degrees at Al-Quds Open University, and an agreement in this matter has been signed regarding implementing this decision for the next academic year.[20]
*Y. Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel; C. Jacob is a research fellow at MEMRI.

[1] Foxnews.com, June 14, 2017.

[2] Wafa.ps, April 14, 2011.

[3] Maan (PA), July 15, 2008. See also shasha.ps, April 27, 2013, wafa.ps, April 28, 2017, MEMRI Special Dispatch

No. 6934, Praise And Support For Imprisoned Terrorists By Palestinian Authority President ‘Abbas, Palestinian Authority Officials, May 21, 2017; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6819, Palestinian President ‘Abbas Meets With Terrorists And Terrorists’ Families, March 8, 2017.

[4] Wafa.ps, April 14, 2011.

[5] Dollar sums calculated according to June 16, 2017 exchange rate.

[6]‘Abbas issued a presidential order according to which the payments to prisoners would no longer be made by the PA’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. Instead, they would be disbursed by a PLO Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.It should be noted that in May 2014,

The aim of this administrative move was to alleviate pressure on the PA by donor countries that do not wish their money to be channeled to support terrorism. However, the offices remained the same and the official in charge remained the same under a new job title. The source of the money remains the PA, which receives them from donor countries, and the overseeing body remains none other than the PA.On June 17, 2016, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said: “The government will continue to act to improve the allowances to the martyrs’ families as soon as possible, along with the PLO (palestinecabinet.gov.ps, June 17, 2016). See also MEMRI Daily Brief No. 97, MEMRI President Yigal Carmon’s Testimony To House Committee On Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2016: Palestinian Authority Support For Imprisoned, Released, And Wounded Terrorists And Families Of ‘Martyrs,’ July 6, 2016.

[7] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 14, 2017.

[8] Al-Risalah (Gaza), June 12, 2017.

[9] Al-Risalah (Gaza), June 12, 2017.

[10] Al-Risalah (PA), December 15, 2015.

[11] Wafa.ps, June 12, 2017.

[12] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 14, 2017.

[13] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 14, 2017.

[14] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 14, 2017.

[15] Alquds.com, June 15, 2017.

[16] Wafa.ps, June 12, 2017.

[17] Wafa.ps, June 12, 2017.

[18] Alwatanvoice.com, June 13, 2017.

[19] Arab48.com, June 11, 2017.

[20] Alquds.com, June 12, 2017.

June 17, 2017 | 4 Comments » | 185 views

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4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. @ Salubrious:
    “KNESSET VOTES DOWN DEATH PENALTY FOR TERRORISTS 94-6

    BYLAHAV HARKOV JULY 15, 2015 17:21 ”

    http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Knesset-votes-down-death-penalty-for-terrorists-94-6-409077

    “Jerusalem Post Israel News Politics And Diplomacy
    KNESSET VOTES DOWN DEATH PENALTY FOR TERRORISTS 94-6

    BYLAHAV HARKOV JULY 15, 2015 17:21
    Bills sponsor MK Sharon Gal lists the names of the many right-wing ministers and MKs who professed to support the bill before the prime minister came out against it.

    Sharon Gal
    Sharon Gal.. (photo credit:Courtesy)

    Only Yisrael Beytenu MKs voted in favor of a bill on Wednesday that would make it easier to sentence terrorists to death.

    The bill, sponsored by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu), would change the current law that allows the death penalty only in a case of judicial consensus, which was only used against Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann (in 1962), to one allowing a majority of presiding judges to sentence a terrorist to death.

    Be the first to know – Join our Facebook page.

    Death penalty for terrorists gains popularity in coalition and on social media
    Netanyahu buries death penalty bill despite likely majority in ministerial committee

    On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted, at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prodding, against the proposal and to establish a committee that will examine, over the next three months, the possibility of changing the law.

    In the plenum on Wednesday, Gal listed the names of the many right-wing ministers and MKs who had promised to support the bill before the prime minister came out against it, and called on them to vote according to their conscience and not narrow political interests.

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    “You are being tested,” he said to them. “Give the courts credit that they will know when to use the law, but give them tools. You would rather give a prize to terrorists than to Yisrael Beytenu.”

    Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) responded that she supports capital punishment and even proposed a bill to implement it in the last Knesset, but the government’s position is to oppose Gal’s bill and allow the new committee to make recommendations.

    Gal gathered the 20 MKs’ signatures necessary to hold a roll-call vote; Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon (Likud) and Minister- without-Portfolio Ophir Akunis (Likud), all of whom said they support the death penalty for terrorists, were absent. Other MKs and ministers who had openly backed the bill voted against it.

    A Bayit Yehudi source said Bennett skipped the vote intentionally, because he did not want to vote against the death penalty, but Shaked could not get away with absenting herself because she is the chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation…”

    What on earth is going on when even Right Wing pro-death penalty politicians don’t want to vote for it? I don’t understand.

  2. From ‘thebalance.com’:

    Family members of military personnel who die as a direct or indirect result of wartime or peacetime service are eligible to receive several types of federal benefits ..

    The military “death gratuity” is a lump sum gratuitous payment made by the military to eligible beneficiaries of a member who dies on Active Duty ..

    The death gratuity payment is $12,420 and is non-taxable. For those whose death is as a result of hostile actions and occurred in a designated combat operation or combat zone or while training for combat or performing hazardous duty, the payment is $100,000.

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