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How the Palestinians Pay Terrorists as Biden Pumps Millions of Aid Dollars Into Their Government

Fatah militants loyal to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas / Getty Images
• May 16, 2022 3:00 pm

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The Palestinian Authority allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists and their families even as the Biden administration pumps U.S. taxpayer funds into the Palestinian government, according to a non-public State Department report issued to Congress and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The report, published on May 10, details how the Palestinian government runs afoul of a U.S. law that bars it from receiving American aid dollars until these terror payments, known as the "pay-to-slay program," are stopped. The PA in 2019, the most recent reporting period available, allocated over $150 million to convicted terrorists. Another $191 million was paid to the families of terrorists who were "martyred" while conducting attacks against Israelis and Americans. There is no sign these payments will end, with Palestinian leaders voicing support on the international stage for the program.

"The PA has not terminated payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli and U.S. citizens to any individual, after being fairly tried, who has been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism and to any individual who died committing such acts of terrorism, including to a family member of such individuals," the State Department concluded. The PA makes these payments in cash as part of an effort to obfuscate its actions and stop the international community from holding it accountable for awarding terrorists and their families, according to the State Department's findings.

The report comes as the Biden administration pushes to increase U.S. aid dollars to the PA, which were terminated during the Trump administration as a result of the "pay-to-slay" program. More than $360 million in U.S. funding was given to the PA in 2021, potentially in violation of a bipartisan law known as the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits the American government from giving the Palestinians aid as long as they pay terrorists. The Biden administration maintains that the aid programs do not violate the law, though it is unclear what safeguards have been put on the funding to ensure it is not used to pay terrorists and their families. The State Department confirmed that no "economic support funds" were withheld as a result of restrictions in the Taylor Force Act.

"The Biden administration is strongly opposed to the prisoner payment system and has consistently engaged the Palestinian Authority to end this practice," a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon. The U.S. Agency for International Development's "assistance in the West Bank and Gaza is implemented consistent with U.S. law."

Republicans in Congress disagree with this assessment. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), for example, says the Biden administration cannot guarantee that the PA is not using U.S. funds as part of its terror financing program. Since the PA moved to a cash system, it is even harder to track which tranches of money are being used to fund "pay to slay."

"The Biden administration is ideologically committed to elevating the Palestinian government and pouring money into Palestinian territories," Cruz told the Free Beacon. "They've been doing this while they clearly knew that the same Palestinian government was inciting terrorism and using fungible money to reward terrorism against Israelis and Americans. It's disgraceful and unacceptable."

The PA "now makes the payments in cash and known recipients are unable to deposit the funds in bank accounts in the West Bank and Gaza" due to Israeli laws that bar financial institutions from supporting the program, according to the State Department's findings.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh endorse the "pay-to-slay" program and say they will not give in to the international community's pressure to end it. Both officials "reaffirmed the PA's commitment to continuing the payments for prisoners, including those convicted of acts of terrorism," according to the report.

In March 2021, for instance, Shtayyeh "publicly pledged his commitment to continue financial allowances to Palestinian prisoners and ‘martyrs' even if Israel continues to deduct these amounts from the PA's tax revenues," the report notes.

Abbas in a September speech before the United Nations pledged his support to terrorists and their families: "Why should we have to clarify and justify providing assistance to families of prisoners and ‘martyrs,' who are the victims of the occupation and its oppressive policies? We cannot abandon our people and we will continue striving to free all our prisoners."

The State Department also concluded that the Palestinian government still teaches violence to its children as part of official school curriculums. While portions of this agenda have been reformed, "some incitement to and glorification of violence or terrorism still exist in school textbooks." Efforts to reform the PA do not include plans to reduce incitement against Israel.

The State Department told lawmakers in its latest report that the administration "at all levels … continues to privately engage the PA to end this abhorrent practice."