Israel Designates Palestinian Fund as Terror Group
JNS.org – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently designated the Palestinian National Fund as a terrorist organization for its “continuing and ongoing activity in providing massive support for elements responsible for committing severe acts of terrorism against Israel.” The designation was groundbreaking, but it might be just the first step in thwarting the fund’s influence.
After Lieberman’s remarks, a statement released by Israel’s Defense Ministry asserted that, “as of today, all necessary actions will be taken in Israel and overseas in order to seize and confiscate property and assets designated for, or belonging to, the fund.”
According to Israeli counter-terrorism expert Boaz Ganor, the founder of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), defining an entity as a terrorist organization allows the Israeli government to prosecute the group’s members, confiscate its funds and take over its facilities and properties.
Ganor prefers to call the Palestinian National Fund a “sponsoring terror organization” rather than a general “terror organization,” because he believes that the former better reflects the group’s crimes. He didn’t know whether Israel warned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas before designating the fund as a terror group, but hopes the Jewish state did so.
The Palestinian National Fund, often in partnership with the PA, financially incentivizes terrorism by paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their families — the longer the sentence, the greater the payments. The fund also financially supports the relatives of terrorists who were killed while perpetrating acts of terror against Israel.
Overall, the fund transfers millions of dollars every month to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their family members. This money is often provided by US and European taxpayers via their governments’ foreign aid to the PA.
“A terrorist that knows he and his family will get monetary support if he is killed or jailed takes this under consideration in his decision to commit attacks,” noted Ganor. “On top of other considerations, he now feels he is doing an altruistic act towards his family, knowing that they will benefit from his activity.”
The Palestinian National Fund is headed by Ramzi Elias Yousef Khouri, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official who is close to senior PA leaders. According to a May 2016 report by the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Khouri also instructed the Palestinian Ministry of Finance to pay $9 million in release grants to Palestinian terrorists who were freed from Israeli prisons.
Lieberman’s declaration was in accordance with his authority under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2322 and 1373, which invoked member nations’ duty to prohibit their citizens from “making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or other related services available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of persons who commit or attempt to commit or facilitate or participate in the commission of terrorist acts.”
Since the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent enactment of UN Resolution 1373, the United States and Israel have been at the forefront of the campaign to counter the financing of terrorist organizations.
But it’s unclear how successful the recent designation will be. As one ICT official noted, “we’ve found that time after time, if you close one channel, [terrorist groups] open another. If you close this channel, they open a third channel.”
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, New York Daily News, Forbes, and The Hill.