Palestinian Authority (PA) officials have successfully pulled off a scheme designed to dupe the US into continuing to give aid to the Hamas-Fatah Unity government - all because of a simple name change.
According to one report earlier this month, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - the terror group behind the PA and Fatah - changed the name of a PA Ministry office from "Ministry of Prisoner Affairs" to "Authority of Prisoner Affairs" in an attempt to deflect criticism over the 12 million dollar per month salary to terrorist prisoners and their families.
PA government spokesman Ehab Bessaiso has since confirmed this ploy in an interview on official PA TV, according to Palestinian Media Watch.
Bessaiso explained that the change of "the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs" under the PA into "the Authority of Prisoners' Affairs" under the PLO would "provide political and legal cover" and "eliminate arguments ... that [foreign] aid money [to the PA] is going to the prisoners" in a June 5, 2014 broadcast.
Ultimately, the goal was to save the status quo - despite international criticism.
"The [prisoners'] salaries will continue to flow... nothing will harm the prisoners; their rights - under a ministry that became an authority - will remain the same," according to Bessaiso.
One week later, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad also confirmed that the change was decided on "following international pressure aimed at preventing the payments to the prisoners."
He also confirmed that "a decision has been made to turn the ministry into an authority, and this will be done upon completion of the [necessary] measures."
The planned new "Authority of Prisoners' Affairs" has not yet been established, and the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs is currently still functioning, but with Minister Shawqi Issa replacing former Minister Issa Karake under the new Fatah-Hamas unity government.
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 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."