Does foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority contribute to terrorism? An independent study in the United Kingdom suggests that it indirectly does, pointing to the P.A.’s much criticized policy of paying the salaries of people on the government payroll while they are serving time for terrorism.
The pro-Israel community has been making just such an accusation for years. The recent report by the Overseas Development Institute adds a crucial voice to the analysis. According to the study, the evaluation of a $224 million grant by the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) to pay for the expansion of the Palestinian civil government workforce “suggests that people who know their families will still receive their salary and that they will have a job waiting for them after time in jail have less reason to avoid committing a violent act.”
One big caveat is that much of that 13-year period covered by the report does not include the five-year period of the DFID grant. Nonetheless, two members of Parliament criticized the aid. Sir Eric Pickles, a Conservative lawmaker, said: “British taxpayers will be shocked to learn that we are helping to fund an equal opportunity employment policy for convicted terrorists.” And MP Joan Ryan, who chairs Labour Friends of Israel, called for an independent inquiry to make sure tax revenue is spent on building peace rather than “ending up in the pockets of convicted terrorists.”
The British government is now investigating the issue. But the prospect of an increase in international criticism of P.A. practices raises the question of what the international community can do. The ODI study noted that “in the absence of donor support, a prospective collapse of the Palestinian economy would create acute adjustment costs, with an associated risk of an escalation in violence.” Put a different way: You think it’s bad now? Imagine how bad things would be without the P.A.
That’s actually a serious issue. Even with all of its problems, the P.A. is an internationally sanctioned body that cooperates with Israel on security measures, and it is the Palestinian address that Israel deals with in negotiations large and small. But while those functions are important, they cannot excuse encouragement and sanctioning of terror. Rather, the international community should vigorously insist that President Mahmoud Abbas make good on his public promises to stop salary payments to terrorists.
A peace breakthrough may not be in the cards at this time. But it should be possible to raise the economic consequence of committing an act of terror, and it is not unreasonable to demand that the P.A. do its part to help achieve that result. This is another instance where actions speak louder than words.