Since 2014, the Palestinian Authority’s Finance Ministry has published an annual anticipated budget in the first part of the year, as well as monthly reports of actual expenditures in each budget category. According to Israeli NGO Palestinian Media Watch, as of April 2019 the P.A. Finance Ministry no longer displays this information on its website.
The ministry’s previous financial transparency—which is a basic requirement for most donor countries to the P.A.—has been replaced by a notice stating: “Due to the contingency law and legal dependencies with the Israeli side, the financial reports have been temporarily suspended.”
Based on the P.A.’s 2018 monthly financial reports, PMW was able to determine that the P.A. spent at least NIS 502 million ($139 million) on salaries and other benefits to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisoners, and to released prisoners, in 2018. A short time later the Israeli government announced that in order not to fund P.A. support for terrorism, it was deducting the NIS 502 million from the tax transfers to the P.A., divided into 12 monthly deductions of NIS 42 ($11.6) million.
“Having understood that the financial transparency was used by PMW and then the Israeli government to see the precise amount the P.A. was spending to reward terrorist prisoners, the P.A. decided to hide these figures from the international community,” explains Maurice Hirsch, head of legal strategies at PMW.
Significantly, the donor countries to the P.A. have demanded full financial transparency as a condition for giving the P.A. financial support. Currently, the P.A. is suffering from a self-imposed financial crisis due to its refusal to accept hundreds of millions of dollars a month that Israel has been sending it, and has turned to the international community asking them for additional financial aid.
“If the P.A. were to publish their current monthly budgetary report, the international community would be horrified” says Itamar Marcus, PMW’s founder and director. “They would see P.A. expenditures in all budget categories were slashed significantly in 2019—except for the payments of salaries to terrorists and payment to so-called ‘martyrs” families, which will be the same or higher than last year.
“Whereas last year these two budget categories, which include the financial support for terrorists, were seven percent of the P.A. budget, this year, as a result of the P.A. refusal to accept the tax revenues which account for 50 percent of its budget, the actual expenditures in these terror support categories will be a much greater percentage of P.A. expenses, possibly as high as 15 percent. One must ask the question: would the international donors give money to the P.A. if they knew that such a high percentage of the P.A. expenses were for rewarding terror?”