Both Palestinians and Israelis have expressed their skepticism over a statement by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Palestinian Authority had changed its policy on paying benefits to the families of convicted terrorists in Israeli jails.
On Tuesday, at a public hearing at the US Senate in Washington, Mr Tillerson said that in their meeting last month, President Donald Trump had asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the payments to prisoners’ families.
He said that as a result, “they have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to families of those who have committed murder of violence against others. We have been very clear with them that this is simply not acceptable to us.”
The Palestinian Authority and its Prisoners Directorate said on Wednesday that there was no change in policy, however.
“Nearly every second Palestinian family is a family of a prisoner or a shahid and anyone who thinks such a decision can be implemented is very wrong,” said Issa Karaka, head of the directorate, in an interview with Haaretz.
One change in policy which has been implemented has been the stopping of payments to former Palestinian prisoners currently living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza. This was done as part of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority’s ongoing pressure on Hamas.
Israeli officials also said they were not aware of any change in the Palestinians’ policy. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a radio interview on Wednesday morning: “I have seen no sign that the Palestining Authority has stopped or is planning to stop payments to terrorists and their families. We are following this closely and as of this moment, I’ve seen nothing.”