JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Washington Post says it has debunked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that the Palestinian Authority pays $350 million a year to Palestinian terrorists and their families.
The amount could be up to two-thirds smaller, according to the Post in its Fact Checker feature.
Netanyahu used the $350 million figure a week ago in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The State Department, by law, already deducts from its Palestinian aid budget a figure that represents the amount of money the Palestinian Authority pays to people convicted of terrorism, according to the Post, but the exact number is classified. That amount is “significantly smaller” than the amount used by Israel, according to the report, which noted that the Israeli government itself does not have an official estimate.
The Post suggests that a big problem is “definitional.” It acknowledges that there are $350 million in annual payments listed in the P.A.’s annual budget for Palestinian prisoners, “martyrs” and injured, but it is not clear that they are all terrorists, as Israel insists they are.
The Palestinians acknowledge making payments to the families of suicide bombers and those convicted of heinous attacks, the Post also reported.
The Fact Checker also said that about 700 Palestinian members of the security forces in Israeli prisons are paid under a separate system in the P.A. security budget that includes salaries and promotions.
It also noted that from the Palestinian perspective, many of the people held by Israel are considered “prisoners of war.”
The Palestinians say the prison payments are a way to rebalance an unfair system under occupation.
Israeli government officials say that in interrogations, they have seen that the payments are an inducement for Palestinians to try to attack Israelis.
“The important thing is that I will die and they will kill me, so that my children will receive a [P.A.] allowance and live happily,” one Palestinian man reportedly said.