Norwegian officials calling on the Palestinians to drop a program that uses funding from U.S. and other Western nations’ taxpayers to pay salaries to jailed murderers.
Borge Brende, the Norwegian foreign minister, confirmed in a report in the daily Dagen newspaper that he told Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the payments, according to Palestinian Media Watch.
WND reported earlier it was PMW that followed a “money trail” showing that the Palestinian Authority is secretly continuing to pay “salaries” to convicted terrorists, despite promising two years ago to stop the payments.
The organization said it found Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance documents that show a transfer of money from the PA to the Palestinian National Fund, the body that funds the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in the amount needed to pay the salaries.
The PA has received an estimated $25 billion in financial aid from the U.S. and other countries over two decades, according to the Gatestone Institute.
The PA’s payments became an issue for donor nations in 2014 after PMW exposed them.
PMW said that among the likely recipients is Abdallah Barghouti, now serving 67 life sentences for preparing explosives for terror attacks over the years that killed 67 people.
After having been imprisoned for 13 years, Barghouti would be receiving about $1,600 a month now, according to the PA law.
When the Western donor nations objected in August 2014, the PA announced it had closed its Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and promised “that salaries to prisoners will no longer be paid by the PA but by the newly formed PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs.”
But the PMW report revealed the new PLO Commission is identical to the old PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs in everything but name.
The commission and the salary payments to prisoners remain under the “supervision” of the Palestinian presidency, meaning Mahmoud Abbas. The PA minister of prisoners’ affairs became the director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, PMW explained
In 2014, the last year the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs operated, its budget was 442 million shekels ($118 million), PMW noted. The year after the “closure” of the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, the PA raised the amount it transfers to the PLO by 481 million shekels ($128 million), from 294 million in 2014 to 775 million in 2015.
PMW found the additional $128 million the PA gave to the PLO in 2015 “is the amount the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs needed to take on the responsibilities of the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, which is primarily paying terrorists salaries.”
It means, PMW said, Western nations were duped into believing the murderers’ salaries no longer were being subsidized by taxpayer funds.
This week PMW reported Norwegian officials are calling out Palestinian officials for the payments after receiving a briefing from PMW for members of Norway’s governing legislature.
“In the Norwegian minister’s meeting with Abbas today, according to the Norwegian daily Dagen, when Abbas was confronted with PMW’s charge that the PA was still paying salaries to terrorists in prison, Abbas did not deny that the PA still funds salary payments to prisoners. Rather he confirmed that the salaries are still being paid, when he assured the Norwegian Foreign Minister that these salaries are just not paid with Norwegian money,” PMW reported.
Brende, in the report, said: “I emphasized that this support program in which financial payments are increased the [longer] the prisoners serve time [in prison], is unacceptable and should be abolished. I emphasized that with the political and economic challenges that Palestinians now face, it is in their own best interest to abolish this program.”
Abbas then claimed Norwegian funds are not going to finance the program, the report said.
PMW had dispatched its director, Itamar Marcus, to Norway to brief officials on the Palestinian Authority’s continuing procedure for paying salaries to terrorists “contrary to its claim to donor countries to have stopped funding these salaries already in 2014.”
During the subsequent discussion about the procedure, State Secretary Tore Hattrem said: “We became aware that the PA was transferring money to the PLO. … For us, it was just as unacceptable as if the money had come directly from the PA.”
A spokesman on foreign aid from the Progress Party, Jorund Rytman, said, “This must have consequences in terms of cutting the aid money so that [Norway] does not just protest, but shows it will act.”
PMW suggested that the procedure could subject the Palestinian Authority to penalties.
“The PA’s pledge that it fulfilled donor countries’ demands is false. Therefore, the PA today is fraudulently receiving the $1 billion it receives in foreign donor money,” PMW said.
At the time the new commission was created, a move described in the report as “mere cosmetic changes,” the international community accepted the PA’s assurances that it was no longer paying the salaries to terrorist prisoners, PMW said.
In the U.S., Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson acknowledged the issue but said a cut in funding was not needed because “they’re going to try and phase that out and we should give them an opportunity to do so.”
But PMW found that is not what happened.
Two months after the announcement that the PA would no longer pay prisoners, the organization confirmed there were “more than 200,000 recipients of PA salaries, which ‘includes the families of the martyrs (shahids) and wounded, as well as the prisoners’ and released [prisoners].”
Last year, the PA Ministry of Finance announced that the PA budget for the Gaza Strip includes salaries to Gaza prisoners in Israeli jails, the report said.
And “when Israel withheld PA tax money in early 2015, the PA announced that prisoners receiving more than 2,000 shekels/month would only receive 60 percent of their salary – the same reduction that was imposed the previous day on all PA civil servants. Were the PLO paying prisoners’ salaries from non-PA sources, Israel’s holding up tax money from the PA would have no impact prisoners’ salaries. Clearly, PA money is still the source paying terrorist prisoners’ salaries.”
Israel National News blasted the donors, saying they were “fooled” by the PA, which continued “raking in over a billion dollars in aid from them annually.”