It’s Time for Treasury Department to Designate Palestinian Leaders as Terrorists
With the recent passage of the Taylor Force Act, Congress called on the Palestinian Authority “to stop payments for acts of terrorism … and to repeal the laws authorizing such payments.” In response, the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed its “national right” to financially support terrorists — and has even increased its budget to do so.
This is a blatant disregard of US policy, and it’s time for the Treasury Department to target the administrators of the Palestinian “pay-to-slay” practice for sanctions.
United States Executive Order 13224 gives the Treasury Department a powerful tool to combat terrorism. It focuses not only on the obvious villains — those who pull the trigger or smuggle explosives — but also on those who assist terrorists, often behind the scenes. The legislation specifically targets those who provide banking services to terrorist groups, and funding for terrorist attacks.
This executive order can also be applied to those who provide material assistance for acts of terror. One such person is Issa Qaraqe. He must be designated for what he is — a facilitator and sponsor of terrorism.
Issa Qaraqe is the director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs. He heads a department that is committed solely to providing financial remuneration and other support for Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
The commission’s website states that Palestinians who commit acts of terror “deserve the legal and legitimate title of warrior.” Qaraqe’s ministry provides monthly stipends to prisoners and released prisoners who, as defined under Palestinian law, are “anyone incarcerated in the occupation’s prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.”
This means anyone who has aided or carried out a terrorist attack against Israel.
The list of recipients of money from the ministry is a who’s who of cold-blooded killers, including Mohammed Abdel Basset al-Kharoub, who murdered American teen Ezra Schwartz and two others. Also featured on the ministry’s pay list is Bilal Abu Ghanem, the killer of Richard Lakin, an elderly Israeli-American.
In 2017, the Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs had a budget of $161 million, all spent to incentivize terrorism and support terrorists.
The US executive order allows the designation of “persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury … [who] assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of … acts of terrorism.”
Qaraqe clearly fits this definition, since he is the director of a ministry whose sole purpose is to “provide financial support” to terrorists. Indeed, his unambiguous and enthusiastic support for terrorism is evident in his comments following the erection of a monument honoring Abu Sakkar — a Palestinian terrorist who planted a bomb in Jerusalem in 1975 that murdered 15 innocent people, including an American and her husband.
Qaraqe stated that “Ahmad Abu Sukkar is a real man, a fighter, and a man who left his impression on everyone and who was a school for giving, resolve, and courage. We are proud of him as one of the symbols of the Palestinian national struggle.”
Qaraqe’s designation by the Treasury Department could help efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority by sending a message that the US government will not allow a Palestinian exemption for terror financing. Concerning Qaraqe himself, this designation will bar him from US travel, prohibit him from conducting business with US companies, and freeze his assets in the US.
Designating specific individuals has been used against Iranian officials, such as the recent designation of the head of the Iranian central bank. Now it is time for the Treasury Department to employ this measure against Palestinian terror leaders as well.
With the Trump administration’s commitment to eradicating terrorism, and in the immediate aftermath of the March 2018 enactment of the Taylor Force Act, the Treasury Department must act. Designating Palestinian officials would send a powerful message that the US will take action against terrorists and their sponsors, whether they are ISIS members in Syria, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or Palestinian officials wearing business suits in Ramallah.
Hanna Gerber is a student focusing on US-Israel relations and a contributing author at The Tower, a publication of The Israel Project.