Why Do We Allow the Palestinians to Pay Terrorists?
On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting Israel with members of his graduate class from Vanderbilt University when a Palestinian terrorist attacked civilians in Jaffa with a knife. Force was killed, and 10 others, including a pregnant woman, were wounded.
US vice president Joe Biden, who happened to be in Israel on a state visit at the time, said: “The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop.”
But the rhetoric and the Palestinian payments to terrorists have not stopped. In fact, the very next day, Abbas’ Fatah party praised the attacker, Bashar Masalha, as a “hero and martyr,” and added that these attacks would continue as “long as Israel does not believe in a two-state solution and ending its occupation.”
Masalha, who was shot and killed by police after he stabbed his last victim, was given a hero’s funeral with thousands in attendance.
The PA even criticized Israel for not releasing Masalha’s body in a timelier fashion.
But the truly obscene part of this story is not really Masalha’s killing spree; it is the PA ’s efforts to incentivize more terrorists to commit acts of violence against civilians in Israel.
According to Law Number 14, Articles 1 and 2, enacted by the PA in 2004, Masalha’s family will receive a pension for life, amounting to three times the average yearly salary in the West Bank.
The Palestinian government makes absolutely no attempt to hide its rewards for terrorism. In the Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law 19 of 2013, the payments were actually enhanced for a terrorist who commits a violent act and is jailed. Under this law, the longer the sentence (i.e., the greater the violence), the higher the salary that a terrorist receives.
Article 4 offers free tuition to the children of those jailed. In Article 6, there is even a clothing allowance and monthly stipend linked to the cost-of-living index. Health insurance is included in Article 4, section 12. Article 5 provides the ultimate bonus: a lifetime pension for a prison term of five years (or only two years in the case of a female terrorist).
In response, some members of the US Congress are planning to introduce the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off funds to the PA until it revokes its laws supporting terrorism.
Why the Israeli government fails to highlight that the PA has legislation incentivizing terrorism, and that it allocates $315 million, nearly 8% of its budget, to pay terrorists in prison and the families of the “martyrs,” is bewildering.
While the Israeli government has begun to criticize the PA for paying terrorists, it has never done anything to stop the PA from doing so.
The PA has named 25 schools throughout the West Bank after terrorist murderers. Three of them honor Dalal Mughrabi, a member of the Fatah faction of the PLO (the precursor to the PA ), who was part of the group that ambushed a bus near Tel Aviv in 1978 (38 Israeli citizens were killed, including 13 children). The late Ms. Mughrabi also has a public square, a soccer tournament, a summer camp and a computer center named after her.
Perhaps it is time for Israel to admit that no two-state solution and no peace will ever be achieved if the Palestinian leadership continues to incentivize terrorism against Israel and teaches its children to hate and kill Jews.
There has been a continued argument that being too forceful with the PA could weaken it, which would lead to the rise of an even more lethal entity, like Hamas or Hezbollah. This is simply wrong, and the US, under President Donald Trump, is now setting into motion the simple idea that terrorism of any sort and against any people is completely unacceptable.
For more than 50 years, much of the world has accepted the Palestinians’ argument of moral equivalence: that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. We’ve heard this in response to the PLO airplane hijackings of the 1960s, the Munich Olympic massacre, the Ma’alot slaughter of Jewish children and the stabbing death of Taylor Force.
But things appear to finally be changing.
In December, Great Britain temporarily suspended funding to the PA because the UK claims, correctly, that the money winds up in the hands of terrorists. Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump held up a last-minute cash giveaway of $221 million to the Palestinians that Barack Obama authorized just hours before he left office.
Too many innocent victims like Taylor Force have suffered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. It’s time we stop adding to this list.
Sander Gerber is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs and the former Vice Chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. The views expressed here are his own. A version of this article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.