Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

The Palestinian Authority’s annual budget lists hundreds of millions of dollars to fund terrorists in prison, so-called martyrs’ families. The Jerusalem Center’s Yossi Kuperwasser challenges the international donors to end this illegal and immoral practice.

Fore more information see “Incentivizing Terrorism: Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families” by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser –…

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

The Palestinian Authority’s legislation and allocations of monthly salaries and benefits rewarding imprisoned and released terrorists, and the families of “Martyrs,” amount to $300 million annually. This financial reward clearly demonstrates the PA’s institutional commitment to sponsoring terror against Israel.

The family of Mohammed Tarayreh
The family of Mohammed Tarayreh, who stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her bed, is now eligible for a monthly stipend from the Palestinian “Martyrs’ Fund.” (AP Photo)

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by Sander Gerber

The PA maintains longstanding legislation and payments to subsidize terrorists and their families. This amounts to an officially sanctioned PA government incentive system to kill Israelis. When I learned of this in November 2015, I was quite shocked. I proceeded to raise the issue with organized American Jewish community leaders and Israeli policymakers, and was told “everybody knows.” Disconcerted by my own lack of knowledge, I canvassed numerous American political leaders who, without exception, were unaware of the PA legislation/budget. The few leaders who were aware that the PA directly pays terrorists thought that the funding was only $5-6 million; they were shocked to learn that according to the official PA budget online, it was $300 million for 2016.

During the past year, the prevailing opinion was that the wave of knifers against Israelis consisted of young and disaffected “lone wolves.” As I examined the issue more closely, I realized that the “incitement” is much more than just an errant cleric or wayward school board, but rather is an institutional campaign of violence against Israel, coordinated and funded by the PA itself. This “struggle” or war is endorsed by the Palestinian leadership, as evidenced by their 2004 legislation specifying, “The prisoners and released prisoners are a fighting sector and integral part of the fabric of Arab Palestinian society.” PA budget line items are earmarked for funding prisoners, released prisoners, and families of “martyrs.”

Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, my friend, led a distinguished career as an IDF intelligence officer at the most senior level, as well as a brilliant strategist, most recently serving as Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. In this study, he accurately presents the history and current state of the PA legislation/budget for terror, as well as policy recommendations.

Sander Gerber is CEO and CIO of the Hudson Bay Capital Management. Since 9/11 he has served in advisory roles dealing with international terrorist financing. In 2006, he was appointed as a trustee of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served as vice chairman of the Wilson Center for seven years. He is currently a member of the Wilson Cabinet and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Executive Summary

  • The payments of salaries by the PA and the PLO to terrorists and to the families of dead terrorists reflect the core identity of the general Palestinian public as they see it. According to Palestinian leaders, achieving their national goal of establishing their state over all of Palestine commits them to struggling against Zionism in a wide variety of ways, including terrorism. Therefore, terrorists, even more than those who struggle through other means, are heroes fighting for the national and religious cause, and this is why they should be glorified and rewarded without any hesitation.
  • The salary payments to terrorists from all Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas as well as those who carried out terror attacks after the Oslo agreements came into effect, are made according to Palestinian Authority legislation that refers to the terrorists specifically as “fighters.” It makes clear that the Oslo accords are not considered by the Palestinian leadership and by most of the Palestinian people as a deviation from or an end to the battle against Zionism.
  • The reaction of the donor community and Israel reflects the success of the Palestinians in portraying themselves as victims. The donors are uncomfortable making official Palestinian support of terror an issue of dispute with the PA.
  • The donors and some in Israel are also concerned that steps against the Palestinian Authority opposing this practice may lead to further radicalization of the Palestinians that may cause a deterioration of the fragile situation. The Palestinians perceive this readiness to willfully turn a blind eye towards the payments of the salaries as a green light to continue the solicitation of terror through the payments as well as other kinds of incitement, hate indoctrination, and delegitimization of Israel and the dissemination of this ideology in the West and in Israel itself.
  • Legally, the payments of salaries to terrorists stand in sharp contrast to the Oslo agreements, according to which the PLO directly and the PA through the PLO have committed themselves to stop terror and to refrain from encouraging terror. It is also in stark contradiction to international conventions on counterterrorism and to the laws of most donor countries since this is direct support to terrorists affiliated with organizations designated as terrorist organizations by both the United States and the EU. By supporting the PA financially and enabling it to allocate funds to salaries for terrorists, Israel and the donors act in a way that is not only illogical and immoral but also illegal according to their own laws.
  • The way to handle this problem is primarily by becoming aware of Palestinian ideology and its institutionalization through the payments for salaries for “fighters,” and then clarifying to the Palestinians through legal, economic and political means that this ideology and the policy of paying salaries to terrorists is unacceptable and must change. This should be a condition for assisting the Palestinians, and it is the only way to promote a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Sticking to the policy of ignoring the salaries would just allow the Palestinian to increase their support for terror and lead to the eternalization of the conflict, with all the harsh consequences that follow.