Statements by senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials reveal a more sinister nature to shifting the Ministry of Prisoners to under the auspices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a move made with the founding of the unity government this Monday.
Several Western nations have begun to call for a clarification of their funding to the PA, given the exorbitant salaries being paid to jailed terrorists under the oversight of the Ministry of Prisoners.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) exposed that on Sunday, a day before the unity government was sworn in, PA Deputy Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Ziyad Abu Ein spoke on official PA TV about planned changes in the Ministry meant to avoid the international scrutiny and continue paying the terrorists.
"We eliminate the international pressure and the attempts to tamper with this issue," Abu Ein declared. "The (PA) leadership wants to keep this holy issue away from the influence of the donor countries, the interference of the donor countries, and the occasional negative influence of the donor countries."
The unity government hit a last minute snag over whether to let the Ministry remain or replace it with an independent body so as not to endanger US funding. A last minute deal kept the Ministry intact, but without a designated minister; instead it was to be directly headed by unity government Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
The changes in the Ministry take on a new meaning in context of Abu Ein's statements, who added that the PA is set to pay $130 million in 2014 in salaries to jailed terrorists, payments which "will now be done through the PLO."
Abu Ein was quoted by Wattan News Agency on Saturday saying the change "would also avoid the pressure being exerted on the PA by the donor countries, which oppose the transfer of their money to prisoners." The comments were likewise translated by PMW.
Other "well-informed sources" were quoted by the PA daily Al-Ayyam on Sunday, clarifying that placing the Ministry under the PLO directly "would be a change of name and nothing more."
The sources added that "the new situation would make possible the provision of new resources to support prisoners' issues, without allowing forces of the US Congress or some European parliaments to attempt to blackmail the PA or to take steps against it.'"
As far as the payments to jailed terrorists, the sources anticipated the prisoners "would not feel any change," but rather the PA would be able "to act towards meeting their demands and defending their rights more efficiently and flexibly."
Paying the terrorists directly
PMW has documented repeatedly that according to PA law and practice, the PA does not give stipends to terrorist prisoners' families but salaries to the terrorist prisoners themselves.
At a government meeting earlier this month, current PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who as noted will head the unity government, said the PA places "prisoners at the top of its priorities" and that they will continue to implement the "Prisoners' and Released [Prisoners'] Law" - which specifically refers to salaries and other payments to prisoners.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, defended the PA practice of paying salaries to terrorists in jail before Congress last week, saying "they have to provide for the families."
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon on Monday responded to the new unity government, saying "now, all aid given to the Palestinians by the United States and other countries directly aids terror attacks against the state of Israel."