Maurice Hirsch

On ‘Pay for Slay’ the UN and Abbas are misleading the world

The PA warns it will collapse if funds are cut off -- let it stop squandering massive sums on rewarding terrorists
Palestinian Ameeneh Nazzal, 75, holds a photo of her son, Ahmed, who she says is held in an Israeli jail, during a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike, in the West Bank city of Jenin, June 3, 2014. (AP/Mohammed Ballas)
Palestinian Ameeneh Nazzal, 75, holds a photo of her son, Ahmed, who she says is held in an Israeli jail, during a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike, in the West Bank city of Jenin, June 3, 2014. (AP/Mohammed Ballas)

When Mahmoud Abbas addressed the recent UN General Assembly he declared in Arabic “I pay tribute to our pure Martyrs and our heroic prisoners.” Alongside his standard glorification of terrorist murderers, Abbas was specifically defending the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) law and policy – known collectively as the PA’s ‘Play to Slay’ policy – whereby the PA uses more than 7% of its entire annual budget, over 1.2 billion shekels, to financially reward terrorists. Abbas’s message was clear – the PA, under his leadership, will continue squandering its limited resources to finance its putrid policy.

Abbas’ message was suspiciously lost on the UN translator. Instead of translating what Abbas actually said, Palestinian Media Watch has exposed that the translator misled the listeners by saying that Abbas said, “I pay tribute to all freedom loving countries and peoples and our martyrs”.

Now the UN Secretary General’s Special representative to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, is apparently joining the UN translators. A report in an Israeli daily claims that Mladenov has warned Israel’s government that implementing a law passed by Israel’s parliament in July 2018 will cause the “collapse of the PA.”

Every month, Israel collects hundreds of thousands of shekels and transfers them to the PA. These funds account for approximately 50% of the PA’s budget. The PA then uses these funds to finance its ‘Pay for Slay’ policy. In practice, Israel is itself providing the funds to the PA to reward the Palestinian terrorists who murder Israelis.

The new Israeli legislation sought to put an end to this absurdity. It requires that the Israeli government deduct any funds that the PA spends to reward terrorism from the monies it collects and transfers to them. The law, which passed with a huge majority, was a clear statement that Israel will no longer be party to the PA’s repugnant policy.

The Israeli legislation followed the passage in March of the US Taylor Force Act (TFA), named after West Point graduate and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Taylor Force, who was murdered in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist. That killer’s family is now a beneficiary of the PA’s policy. The TFA made most of the US financial support to the PA – approximately $350 million annually – conditional on the latter completely abolishing its ‘Pay for Slay’ policy.

Abbas and the PA responded to both the US and the Israeli legislation by saying that even if the PA is left with only one shekel, it will spend it on the terrorists before anything else.

When Australia announced a similar decision, PA leader Nabil Shaath responded by saying that Australia is “worthy of being spat on”.

Now Abbas appears to be adopting a new tactic. In an uncharacteristic leak of a closed meeting between the head of Israel’s Security Agency and Abbas, it was reported that Abbas is threatening to cease PA-Israeli security coordination if Israel implements the new law.

But truth be told, the security coordination serves Abbas no less than it serves Israel. As part of Abbas’s internal rift with Hamas, the PA uses the security coordination to pass information to Israel about Hamas terrorist activities. Israel then arrests the terrorists, thereby avoiding potential terrorist attacks, but also eliminating Abbas’s competition.

Abbas’s threat, which he publicly links to the Israeli implementation of the new law, may well become a reality, but for completely different motives. In October, the US passed additional legislation that provides its courts with jurisdiction to adjudicate claims of US victims of terror against any recipient of US aid.

While the TFA put a stop to most US aid to the PA, it did not stop the aid – some $61 million annually – designated for security coordination. If the PA continues to accept this aid, it will be exposing itself to the risk of losing dozens of lawsuits for its direct involvement in terrorism. This, more than Israel’s implementation of the new law is much more likely to be a dominant factor in any PA decision.

The real reason for the PA’s potential financial collapse is that it squanders more than seven percent of its annual budget to reward terrorists. Abbas’s threats to halt security coordination, ostensibly because of Israel’s new law, should be seen in their wider context, most particularly, the clear fear that instead of rewarding terrorists the PA will have to start compensating the victims.

It’s time the UN, Mladenov and Abbas realize that rewarding terrorists was never and will never be acceptable. If the UN and Mladenov had any moral fiber, instead of warning Israel that implementing a wholly justified law will potentially lead to the collapse of the PA, they would stop ignoring the PA’s rewarding of terrorists and condition any aid to the PA on the abolition of the ‘Pay for Slay’ policy.

About the Author
Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is the Director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a Senior Legal Analyst at Human Rights Voices and a member of the Israel Defense and Security Forum. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position he served as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.
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