In Advance of Abbas Visit to White House, 36 Congressmembers Call on Secretary of State to Address Palestinian Authority’s Payments to Convicted Terrorists

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY 22) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (NY 3 ) joined together to call on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 3, when he will meet with Donald Trump in the White House. The letter, signed by 36 Members of Congress, also urges the administration to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.

The Palestinian Authority has a long record of providing financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have engaged in acts of terrorism. Begun in the 1990s, the practice continues today.  Under current law, Palestinians convicted of an act of terrorism are given monetary compensation as well as employment upon release.

“It is extremely unsettling that the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial support to convicted terrorists. These policies promote acts of terrorism in the region and must be immediately addressedAdditionally, it is highly concerning that payments to terrorists and their families increase with the length of the sentence, which has the potential of encouraging particularly brutal acts of terrorism,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney.  “As the largest providers of aid to the Palestinians, the United States must lead the way in ensuring that the Palestinian Authority ends this practice and that peace is brought to the region, especially since innocent Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.”

“The Palestinian Authority cannot incentivize terror. Terrorists and their families cannot be paid for killing innocent people. Longstanding U.S. policy is committed to a two-state solution, but this dangerous practice pushes us further away from that goal. The United States must put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end this dangerous and unconscionable practice, which only encourages more acts of terror,” said Congressman Thomas Suozzi.

The United States provides aid to the Palestinians to assist with a wide range of needs. However, since 2015, Congress has joined together to reduce U.S. aid on a 1-to-1 ratio for every dollar that the Palestinian Authority uses for official payments to convicted terrorists. Despite the reduction, these payments to terrorists have continued. The letter urges Secretary Tillerson to use all means at his disposal to address this ongoing issue and the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to put an end to this program.

Read the full text of the letter below.

May 2, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520-0099

 

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write today to bring an issue of bipartisan concern to your attention. For more than three decades, the Palestinian Authority has provided monetary awards and other incentives to those who have committed acts of terrorism in the region. We fear that this financial support encourages violence and serves as a clear impediment to a truly durable peace. As such, we encourage you to address this issue when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Washington in early May.

Since the early 1990’s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided financial compensation and employment benefits to Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. In 2016, programs providing compensation to terrorists and their families were funded at approximately $300 million. These payments are officially sanctioned by the PA and create a perverse and troubling incentive for individual acts of terrorism. For example, under current PA law, a Palestinian who was convicted of an act of terror and given a 10-year sentence would receive $130,000 over ten years. In addition to such compensation, individuals who are incarcerated also receive a guarantee of employment following their release from prison, creating yet another incentive for terrorism.

Policies which have the potential to encourage violence in the region are simply unacceptable and given that American citizens have died in previous acts of terrorism, this is an issue of grave concern to us. For example, on November 19, 2015, 18-year old Ezra Schwartz, an American boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was murdered by a Palestinian in an attack that left him and two others dead. The individual charged with his murder was sentenced to four life sentences, making him eligible to receive $3,000 a month. Sadly, since payments are based on the length of individual sentences, convicted terrorists receive more money for acts of terrorism that are even more brutal.

The United States is the largest provider of aid to Palestinians. This aid serves a variety of purposes, including to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. Since 2015, members of Congress have come together on a bipartisan basis in an attempt to use this aid as leverage to deter the PA from providing such payments to terrorists and their families. In each year since 2015, annual appropriations have provided for a 1-to-1 reduction in U.S. aid for every dollar that the PA provides to terrorists. It is clear, however, that this troubling policy continues and that this change alone in current law has not been sufficient to deter the continuation of the PA’s program.

As a result, we strongly urge you to ensure that this issue is raised with President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the White House and to continue using all other means at your disposal to address the PA’s reluctance to abandon this program altogether. As members of Congress, we are committed to the long-standing policy of the United States to see a durable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, resulting in two states; a Jewish, democratic state living in peace and security next to a peaceful Palestinian state. So long as the PA continues to compensate and thereby incentivize terrorist activity, we find it difficult to see how the necessary conditions for a lasting peace can be established.

We thank you for your consideration of this important issue and stand ready to assist you in bringing about a sustainable resolution to our concerns.

Sincerely,

  1. Rep. Claudia Tenney
  2. Rep. Thomas Suozzi
  3. Rep. Peter J. Roskam
  4. Rep. Trent Franks
  5. Rep. Jackie Walorski
  6. Rep. Doug LaMalfa
  7. Rep. Randy Weber
  8. Rep. Tom McClintock
  9. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
  10. Rep. Grace Meng
  11. Rep. Lee Zeldin
  12. Rep. Ted Poe
  13. Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E
  14. Rep. Mia Love
  15. Rep. Paul Cook
  16. Rep. Mike Gallagher
  17. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis
  18. Rep. Thomas J. Rooney
  19. Rep. Peter King
  20. Rep. Todd Rokita
  21. Rep. Don Bacon
  22. Rep. Paul Mitchell
  23. Rep. Patrick Meehan
  24. Rep. Steve Russell
  25. Rep. Andy Biggs
  26. Rep. Ryan Costello
  27. Rep. David Cicilline
  28. Rep. Drew Ferguson
  29. Rep. Josh Gottheimer
  30. Rep. Jim Banks
  31. Rep. Jack Bergman
  32. Rep. Ted Deutch
  33. Rep. Lois Frankel
  34. Rep. Nita M. Lowey
  35. Rep. Bradley S. Schneider
  36. Rep. Pete Olson

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