A report by the watchdog, Palestinian Media Watch, has revealed that every month almost £3 million from the Palestinian Authority goes towards paying salaries to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. These salaries are drawn from the PA general budget, funded by international donors, among them the UK.
Britain’s Department for International Development spends an average of £86 million per year in the Occupied Territories, of which £30 million goes to the general budget. Those convicted of crimes such as murder, which carry a life sentence, receive around £2,000 a month as salary.
In a speech to the UN Security Council during an open debate on the Middle East this week, Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, highlighted the issue. He said: “This year, as the PA threatened to delay payroll for many employees, it tripled its monthly payments to convicted terrorists… how many taxpayers in London, Paris, Berlin and Lisbon know that some of their money is going to convicted terrorists with blood on their hands?”
After the allegations were first made public, the International Development Minister, Alan Duncan, refuted them, saying: “If these claims were true, this would be a matter of very serious concern for me and the Department. However, I am pleased to reassure you that we have investigated the matter fully and can confirm that the allegations in Palestinian Media Watch’s report are both inaccurate and misleading.” The minister insisted that the payments were not salaries but “social assistance programmes to provide welfare payments.”
But, this week, PMW categorically rejected Mr Duncan’s findings. In a new report, it found that PA law consistently referred to the payments as “a monthly salary” which had no relation to the prisoner’s marital or social-welfare status, but rather to the length of his sentence.
Itamar Marcus, director of PMW, launched the report in an address to the Henry Jackson Society in London this week. He said: “The fact that the PA uses its general budget to reward terrorists with salaries should be a matter of very serious concern for all donor countries to the PA.”
A spokesperson for the Conservative Friends of Israel called on the DfID “to investigate the matter fully and urgently, accept where mistakes have been made and rectify them immediately,” adding that “no UK aid to the Palestinians should be spent in this way.”
MP Robert Halfon is set to raise the matter with Mr Duncan next week.
"Incitement in the Palestinian territories is a crucial issue when considering the potential for peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians," said Raheem Kassam, director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society.
"The British Foreign Office has, over the past few years, been reluctant to investigate the many examples of incitement and glorification of terrorism sponsored by the Palestinian Authority. This is a status quo that simply cannot continue."