Does the UN Secretary General Really Want to Enable PA-Sponsored Terrorism?
On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The UN announcement of the meeting doesn’t refer to Abbas as president; rather, it uses the term “His Excellency,” which is the UN protocol title for a country’s leader. Then on Tuesday, the “State of Palestine” will assume the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 — a coalition of 134 developing nations, designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations.
Abbas’ recognition by the UN as the legitimate ruler of the Palestinian people is nearly as bizarre as the UN’s near-acceptance of the idea that the Palestinian Authority (PA) contributes to global peace and prosperity. All this begs a question: Does the UN want to enable terror or disable terror?
PA law mandates that “salaries” be paid to Palestinian terrorists if they are caught or killed. The PA “pay-to-slay” programs — and the incentives they provide to perpetuate terrorism — are described in the Taylor Force Act, a US law enacted in March 2018, as well as in more recently enacted Israeli legislation. After much obfuscation and obstruction by the Palestinian Authority and the media, the existence of these payment programs is now exposed to all.
Sadly, too many UN member states have become terror deniers. Why doesn’t the UN join nations of conscience in their condemnation of the PA’s financial rewards and incentives for terror? Put another way — is the UN becoming a terror enabler?
For the PA, ending these payments crosses a “red line.” Palestinian officials, in Arabic, characterize terror trust fund recipients as “soldiers and sons of our nation.” But in English, they defend these payments as “social welfare” used to support “innocent individuals” suffering from the loss of a head of household “breadwinner.” This claim, which attempts to convert blood money into benevolence, is usually phrased like it was in this July 2017 statement by Husam Zomlot, the former PLO envoy to the US:
This is a program that is used for the victims of the occupation. … It’s a program to give the families a dignified life, they are provided for, so they and their kids can lead a different future.
Characterizing payments for terror as social welfare is a deception that is frequently accepted at face value by Western governments that fund the PA and its terror payments policy. The problem with this claim, which could be called the “Social Welfare Defense,” is that it is demonstrably false.
This “Social Welfare Defense” collapses upon examination of the PA’s laws and budget, comparing and contrasting “pay to slay” terror payments with the PA’s formal welfare system.
Simply put, the PA system governing payments to terrorists is far superior to its regular, needs-based welfare system. Perversely, by using its budget to pay terrorists, the PA is depriving those less fortunate members of Palestinian society their fair share of government aid.
In the PA’s 2018 budget, funding levels for “pay-to-slay” programs were more than 1.2 billion shekels ($330,000,000) overall — consuming over seven percent of the annual PA budget. These payments were scheduled to go to approximately 10,500 imprisoned and released prisoners, and some 37,500 families of “martyrs” and injured terrorists. In contrast, the entire 2018 budget for the PA’s social welfare system is about $214 million, and supports 118,000 households — thus, a much larger group subsists on a much smaller budget.
Enshrined in PA law, payments to imprisoned terrorists are almost entirely dependent on length of incarceration, and not on personal financial circumstances. True social welfare recipients, however, are eligible based on need and do not get automatic payments. Once approved, they receive benefits of only 250-600 shekels a month, paid quarterly — and the maximum welfare payment is 57 percent less than the minimum “pay-to-slay” salary.
As defined by PA law, payments to prisoners are restricted to the “fighting sector” (“Alsharicha Almunadila” in Arabic) who are involved in “the struggle against the occupation.” Common incarcerated criminals are not eligible for payments, even if they are destitute. Terrorist prisoners are eligible for payments even if they are young and unmarried, with no dependents. Furthermore, released prisoners continue to receive salaries, regardless of need.
Terrorists and their families have no need for the PA social welfare system and would be foolish to use it, because they have access to a far superior system. And Palestinians, aware of this gap, capitalize on it. If one’s family is in a tough economic situation, terror becomes a solution, with hero status as a bonus. And what do the Palestinians see as their government’s priority? Helping the destitute or promoting terror? If you follow the money, it’s clear that terror is more attractive, quantitatively and qualitatively.
So if Abbas conflates prisoner salaries or martyrs’ family benefits with social welfare, remember that in reality there are two distinct systems operating here. By intent and design, the “pay-to-slay” program is simply money for murder. Sadly, too many UN member states have become terror deniers.
Hopefully, the UN will expose the camouflage and begin to push back against PA “state”-sponsored terror. This would be a positive step to enable the Palestinian people to take a legitimate seat at the community of nations. A peace process cannot be built on a foundation of lies. The choice is clear: you are either a terror enabler or a terror disabler. We ask the UN — and the world — which side of the moral divide are you on?
Sander Gerber is the CEO of Hudson Bay Capital. He is a fellow at JINSA and the JCPA, and a former Vice Chairman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.