JERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli research group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports that nearly $2 billion in international aid that has been donated to the Palestinian Authority is missing or misused.
The international community gives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the PA every year, but PMW's Maurice Hirsch argues that lack of accountability has allowed the money to end up in the hands of terrorists.
"While the PA has constantly complained about its financial difficulties, scrutiny of the PA's own financial records for the years 2011 - 2018, shows that the PA transferred from its coffers over 7 billion shekels ($1.99 billion) to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), some of which was then given to terrorist organizations," Hirsch wrote in a report published Monday.
The PLO, which is led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is an umbrella organization for several Palestinian political groups. The PA is the largest group under that umbrella, but other organizations like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are also members. The United States and the EU recognized the PFLP as a terror group that has Israeli blood on its hands.
"While international donors have demanded that the PA show financial transparency, the PLO is not subject to any financial regulation or demands of transparency. Accordingly, it is impossible to know what happens with billions of dollars of donor money the PA has given and continues to give today to the PLO," Hirsch said, adding that "the PA has systematically used US and EU money to fund organizations that the donors themselves have designated as terrorist organizations."
Despite numerous complaints from Israel and the US, Abbas vows to continue giving money to Palestinian terrorists.
"We will not allow them to deduct a single penny from their money. All the money will go back to them, because the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners are the most sacred things we have," Abbas said in a video posted to his Facebook page on August 10.
PMW reported earlier this year that the Palestinian Authority spent at least $136.4 million on pay-to-slay payments to terrorist prisoners in 2018 alone.
That amount only refers to PA payments to terrorist prisoners and released terrorist prisoners. They do not account for the money the PA pays to the families of dead or injured Palestinian terrorists.
Israel's parliament passed legislation in July 2018 to financially penalize the PA for its terror payments.
"The law that imposes monetary sanctions on the PA because of its payments to terrorists is one of the most important laws passed in Israel in recent years, because it sends a clear message to the Palestinian Authority that Israel will by no means accept its support for terrorism," PMW director Itamar Marcus told The Jerusalem Post.
The United States has also taken steps to punish the PA for pay-to-slay. US lawmakers passed the Taylor Force Act, which cuts US aid until the PA stops rewarding terrorists and their families.
However, Hirsch argues that more must be done.
"While the US has stopped its direct aid to the PA, and thus stopped the PA misuse of the money to fund designated terrorist organizations, the EU continues to provide the PA with aid. And the PA continues to provide funds to the PLO. Clearly, while it is impossible to prove that one specific dollar/euro donated to the PA found its way directly into the accounts of the PFLP/PLF, it is clear that donations to the PA to cover its legitimate expenses, allows the PA to divert its own resources for these illegitimate purposes," he said.
Hirsch also reported that between the years 2011 - 2018, the PA also spent over ($125 million) to fund its non-functioning institutions,"
One of those non-functioning institutions is the PA's "General Election Committee," which has not held an official election in more than 15 years.
Hirsch urges the international community to hold the PA accountable for the money it receives.
"Allowing the PA to continue these practices does nothing to achieve any peace related goal. The opposite is true. When the international donors turn a blind eye to the PA's obvious abuses, they simply embolden and facilitate the PA to deepen the rifts," he said.