Created under the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the PA serves as the government of the Palestinian-administered territory in the West Bank. It was originally intended to exercise authority in both the West Bank and Gaza, but Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine, violently expelled it from Gaza in 2007 and now administers Gaza itself.
Within the PA, the predominant political organization is the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO’s chairman, was elected PA president in January 2005 for a four-year term. Though that term expired long ago, the PA hasn’t held a more recent presidential election; Abbas remains president.
Nondemocratic societies lack rule of law, but they generally don’t lack laws. Their laws, in fact, tell us a lot about them. In the case of “pay for slay,” the relevant legislation is the PA’s “Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19 (2004).”
It guarantees “a dignified life” to anyone Israel has imprisoned “for his participation in the struggle against the occupation.” That is, it promises benefits to anyone caught for knifing, shooting, running over, or bombing people in Israel. The law lauds current and former terrorist prisoners as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society.”
Articles 5 and 8 apply to terrorists released from Israeli prisons. Those who served a year or more are exempted from:
a. tuition fees at government schools and universities.
b. health insurance payments.
c. tuition fees for all professional training programs offered by the relevant official bodies.
Some released prisoners work as PA civil servants. For each of these, prison time served is accounted for as if it had been civil-service work: The law says the PA “shall pay his social security and pension fees . . . for the years he spent in prison.”
Articles 6 and 7 apply to terrorists still incarcerated. “Every incarcerated prisoner” is entitled to a monthly salary “linked to the cost-of-living index.” A portion thereof goes directly to the prisoner’s family.
The Palestinian Authority promotes violence against Israel. Officials do it in public speeches. PA-run television and radio make it a theme, as do the curricula and textbooks of PA schools. The incitement is so unrelenting that it’s drawn criticism even from supporters of the PA, such as 44—and, remarkably enough, from the United Nations Security Council.
Palestinians have had wretched political leadership for a century, since World War I, when Britain ended Turkey’s 400-year ownership of Palestine. Their leaders have chosen the anti-democratic—and losing—side of every major conflict for the last hundred years. They chose the Turks in World War I, the Nazis in World War II, the Soviets in the Cold War, Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, and the West’s enemies in the War on Terrorism.
Most catastrophically for themselves, they chose Israel’s enemies in the Arab–Israeli conflict.
Despite everything—despite the long history of conflict—it remains possible that the Palestinians might someday achieve peace, prosperity, and some kind of national independence. But they’ll never get it if they continue to be dominated by dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian, and violent leaders.
They’ll never get it if their leaders are the kind of people who pay rewards to terrorist murderers.