Yerushalayim (Andrew Friedman/TPS) – Sources close to the Palestinian Authority refused Wednesday to confirm a claim by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s that they have agreed to halt salary payments to the families of terrorists. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meanwhile told Israel Radio that he “has not seen any indication that the Palestinian Authority has stopped, or intends to stop payments to terrorists and their families.”
One senior aide to a top Palestinian official, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) he believed the report was not true. The source said he had no first-hand knowledge of the issue but he said it was unlikely to be true because it is an emotional issue to many Palestinians.
“I don’t know if it is true, but I don’t think so. I also think it would be a mistake. Many people would be very angry at the government if they changed the policy,” said the person, who spoke to TPS on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Palestinians “have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others. We have been very clear with them that this [practice of paying terrorists] is simply not acceptable to us.”
The issue of payouts to terror families has been a point of contention for Israel for years, and made it to Congress’ agenda in February of this year, when 42 Republican senators introduced a bill to slash US funding to the Palestinian Authority if the payments continue. The bill, known as the Taylor Force Act, is named for a US army veteran named Taylor Force was stabbed to death in Tel Aviv in March 2016 while on an MBA program in Israel sponsored by Vanderbilt University.
Also this week, Israeli government ministers granted initial approval to withhold tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority if the payments don’t stop.
Notably, President Trump did not mention the issue when meeting the press following his meetings with Abbas in Washington and Bethlechem last month. However, White House spokesman Sean Spicer did say that Trump raised the issue with Abbas in Washington.
“The president raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror and to their families and emphasized the need to resolve this issue,” Spicer said.
The Palestinians have paid out some NIS 4 billion — or $1.12 billion — over the past four years to terrorists and their families.