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Stop the ‘pay for slay’ payments and put the welfare of Israeli citizens first

For the PA, the martyrs' payments are central to the long war against Israel; for Israel, stopping them is essential to preventing terror and breaking the cycle of conflict
Illustrative. From Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon's presentation on payments to Palestinian terrorists, outside the UN Security Council, May 11, 2017. (Courtesy)
From Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon's presentation on payments to Palestinian terrorists, outside the UN Security Council, May 11, 2017. (Twitter)

The Israeli government just broke the cardinal rule of governance: “Salus populi suprema lex esto [the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law].”

This principle, attributed to Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, should formulate the backbone of every decision, calculation and action by those who were democratically elected to represent the interests of the people.

Unfortunately, the Israeli government is attempting to transfer the full amount of taxes it accrues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority without deducting the amounts that the Palestinian leadership spends on supporting terrorists in prison and their families, in direct contravention of a law I wrote with MK Avi Dichter, which passed in 2018.

The bill that we authored directs the government to deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority pays out to convicted terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority.

The so-called Palestinian martyrs’ fund pays far higher benefits to those involved in more serious and bloody attacks as an encouragement to cause the greatest number of casualties among Israelis by terrorists.

This is the quintessential encouragement of terror.

Nevertheless, the amounts in recent months were not deducted because the Finance Ministry has yet to receive an order from the security cabinet to do so, as required by law.

In other words, some of our most senior officials have made a conscious decision not only to act against Israeli law, but far more seriously, to act against the welfare and security of Israeli citizens.

The law was written to disincentivize terror, thus protecting Israelis, and negating it puts all of us in far greater danger.

It was sent as a strong message to the Palestinian Authority leadership that we will act against the machinery of terror and bloodshed and ensure that their over 100 year war of violent rejectionism must be defeated.

If we truly seek peace, prosperity and a better future for all the peoples of the region then we must ensure victory over these bloody war aims.

It is clear that the foundational axle of this bloody conflict, which has claimed far too many lives on all sides, is based on the rejection of the Jewish people’s rights to sovereignty in its national and indigenous homeland, and the tactics of terrorism have been the primary instrument to secure this goal.

If we do not break, defeat and dismantle the apparatus of terror then the conflict simply can not end and more blood will be shed.

Placing significant financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end its “pay for slay” payments is a strong path towards victory over violent intransigence. If used correctly, it should force the Palestinian Authority’s hand over its priorities towards its people and its future in the region.

Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority has yet to end its “pay for slay” payments, even during the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic challenges. Palestinian Authority officials have repeatedly claimed that it prioritizes these payments over funds for welfare, payments for civil servants and salaries for its teachers.

It does so in the knowledge that the Israeli government will eventually bail them out, and it has not shown the Palestinian Authority any reason to think otherwise.

This provides a victory and gift for those who continue on the path of terror and violent rejectionism.

This is not the way to pressure the opposing side in any conflict. No nation in history provides its opponents or enemies with the significant means to continue raging its murderous offensive.

The government of Israel needs to pursue a policy of maximum pressure against the machinery of terror until it is defeated once and for all. This can be achieved by drying up its funds and taking all military, economic and diplomatic steps to do so.

Until this is achieved, the glorification and incentivization of terror and murder will continue.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, a senior Palestinian leader and seen by many as a potential future PA president, said on behalf of Abbas on Palestinian Martyrs’ Day in January, that convicted terrorist murderers are “the most honorable and noble of people and the greatest in self-sacrifice and altruism, since they have sacrificed their lives so that we would live and for the freedom of their people and homeland.”

“I believe in the prophesy of [Khalil Al-Wazir] ‘Abu Jihad’ (i.e., a terrorist, responsible for the murder of 125 Israelis) that victory will undoubtedly arrive,” al-Aloul continued, leaving his listeners in no doubt as to what that victory entails.

For many among the Palestinian Authority leadership, the martyrs’ payments are a central part of their long-standing war against Israel. They provide succor to would-be terrorists that their families will be looked after should they be killed, or themselves should they not, and creates a never ending conveyor belt of enthusiasts for bloodshed who seek the rewards bestowed upon them, whether celebratory, religious or economic.

Israel has a sole and supreme responsibility to shut down the Palestinian machinery of war because every day it remains active is another day when Israeli life is threatened, and the conflict continues.

Offsetting the Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists will demonstrate that the Israeli government puts the welfare of its people first.

About the Author
Elazar Stern is a Knesset Member with Yesh Atid. He served as a Major General in the Israel Defense Forces and as Head of the IDF Personnel Directorate. He is the Chair of the Knesset Lobby on Religion and State.
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