As Trump Meets Abbas, Victim Families Press Issue of Financial Rewards for Palestinian Terrorists
As President Donald Trump greeted Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), at the White House on Wednesday, relatives of Palestinian terror victims and their supporters again raised grave concerns over the generous payments made by the Palestinian Authority to the families of terrorists.
The PA currently spends $300 million annually on the payments – close to 8 percent of its budget. Critics say that the PA actively incentivizes terrorism, by promising financial rewards and national glory for those who participate.
On the eve of Trump’s meeting with Abbas, an anonymous White House source told Reuters news agency that the president would press for an end to the payments. This follows the introduction of the Taylor Force Act in Congress – named for the 28 year old US Army veteran murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv on March 8, 2016– which would limit US aid to the PA until the payments are stopped.
But relatives of terror victims, many of them veterans of the campaign to hold the PA accountable, were cautious about the prospects for success.
“There are some small indications that ‘concern’ was expressed in the name of the United States during the Trump/Abbas encounter concerning the ongoing PA payments scheme that rewards Palestinian Arabs for engaging in terror,” noted Arnold Roth, whose 15 year old daughter, Malki, was murdered in the suicide bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizza restaurant in August 2001.
“The passions that the prisoner payments scheme arouses in Palestinian Arab society seem never to be adequately captured in mainstream news reports – I worry that they are not well-enough understood by the people now exercising power in Washington,” Roth told The Algemeiner.
Roth argued that western governments enjoy leverage over the PA which they are reluctant to exercise. “Mahmoud Abbas’ perpetually insolvent administration stays in business only because of massive hand-outs of foreign aid,” he stated. “In a sane world, the providers of those donations – the US and the European Union in particular – would be attaching real conditions to them. But mystifyingly they don’t.”
Stephen Flatow, whose 20 year old daughter Alisa was murdered in the 1995 suicide bombing of an Israeli bus by Islamic Jihad, asserted that “raising the issue for discussion is just not enough.”
“America’s position has to be that aid to the PA will be reduced dollar for dollar by the amount of money spent by the PA on what are euphemistically called ‘social welfare payments,'” Flatow told The Algemeiner.
Neither Trump nor Abbas mentioned the issue of the prisoner payments at their joint appearance on Wednesday. “If the issue is not raised, I wouldn’t understand the rationale for the US position and I’d be extremely disappointed,” Flatow said. “The PA’s payments to terrorists –on a sliding scale no less, based on the number of Jews killed or injured – serves to encourage others to commit terror.”
Speaking on a conference call earlier on Wednesday, Palestinian affairs expert Grant Rumley of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) noted the centrality of the prisoner payments issue to Palestinian internal politics. “Any change on the payments policy will cost Abbas dearly at home,” Rumley said.