Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, (l.), has made winning the freedom of killers such as Issa Abed Rabbo, (r.) a top priority. (AP)
Ron Levy, (l.), and Revital Seri, (r.), were murdered while hiking near Jerusalem in 1984. Their killer has been freed and will receive more than $100,000 and a military promotion from the Palestinian Authority.
Terror pays in the West Bank and Gaza, where killers recently freed by Israel under pressure from the U.S. are getting six-figure payments and military promotions from the Palestinian Authority.
Issa Abed Rabbo, the longest serving of some 104 Palestinian prisoners to be released, is getting the standard $50,000 the PA pays to freed terrorists, plus another $60,000 and the full cost of his upcoming wedding. Rabbo tied up and shot dead two Israeli Hebrew University students who were hiking near Jerusalem in 1984. Rabbo, now 49, was sentenced to life in prison, but became a hero to some Palestinians for no reason other than killing Revital Seri, 22, and Ron Levy, 23.
“The world thinks its funding peace, but instead the Palestinians are funding terror.”
- Danny Danon, Israeli deputy defense minister
The PA has long paid out five-figure sums to terrorists, as well as monthly stipends and military promotions, and also rewards the families of suicide bombers. But the latest examples, especially in light of the Israeli public’s opposition to freeing the prisoners, are triggering a backlash.
“The world thinks it's funding peace, but instead the Palestinians are funding terror,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon. Their aid money is used to give massive grants to terrorists.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has praised the mother of Rabbo for her “steadfastness” and sacrifices” during her son’s time in prison, celebrated the release of prisoners on the West Bank. He has made winning the freedom of Palestinian prisoners one if his highest priorities, and the U.S. strongly urged Israel to go along with the release as a sign of good faith ahead of peace talks.
Despite polls reflecting the opposition of an overwhelming majority of the Israeli public to the convicted killers being given their freedom, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure from Secretary of State Kerry to make a gesture of good faith, went along with the plan as Israeli and Palestinian officials resumed peace talks in Jerusalem after a three-year hiatus
The funds paid out to Rabbo and other convicted killers come from the Palestinian Authority’s general fund. The PA gets roughly $600 million in aid every year from the U.S., and hundreds of millions more from its European patrons. The PA says the money is paid out to help the former prisoners adjust to life in the free world, but critics believe it is a government-funded reward program for murder and terrorism.
“This is yet another example of the way the Palestinian leadership has squandered its resources,” Jonathan Schanzer, author of the recently released book "State of Failure," which examines the financial dealings of the Palestinians, told FoxNews.com. “In this case, they are not only misallocating huge sums during a financial crisis in the West Bank, they are transferring their resources to convicted murderers, which is completely unethical. American officials should conduct an investigation into whether these funds were allocated from accounts where U.S. tax dollars were involved.”
Among the other Palestinian prisoners freed were:
- Tsabbag Mohamed, 39, a member of Fatah sentenced to life for the 1991 torture and murder of three neighbors he suspected of collaborating with Israel.
- Shabbir Hazam, 39, a member of Fatah who, as part of an initiation into a terror organization, killed a co-worker and Holocaust survivor with an ax in 1994.
- Yusef Hazaa, 46, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of two hikers, 35-year-old father of five Yosef Elihau, and Leah Almakayis, a 19-year-old National Service volunteer.
Meir Indor, chairman of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, which represents the families of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists over the past 30 years, tried unsuccessfully to get the Israeli High Court to block the release of prisoners.
“Awarding somebody who killed innocent people such money and giving them the rank in the Palestinian Army of Major General is unbelievable” Indor said.
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who can be followed on twitter @ paul_alster and at www.paulalster.com