Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, second from left, waves with released Palestinian prisoners coming from Israeli jails during celebrations at Abbas’ headquarter in the West Bank town of Ramallah, October 30, 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian prisoners who were convicted of killing Israelis and then released by Israel as a goodwill gesture to smooth the path of peace talks were given at least $50,000 apiece as well as a comfortable monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority.
The 26 prisoners who were set free October 30 — the second batch of a total of 104 prisoners slated to be released — were almost all jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords for attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The salary granted to each prisoner depended upon the length of his incarceration. Those who were held for over 25 years were entitled to $50,000, in addition to a position as a deputy minister or a promotion to the rank of major-general in the security forces, both of which earn monthly wages of NIS 14,000 (nearly $4,000).
Those who spent less than 25 years in Israeli prisons received the same lump sum as well as promotion to a deputy directorship in a government ministry or to the rank of brigadier-general, with a monthly wage of NIS 10,000 ($2,800) on the PA’s payroll, the report said.
According to information published in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in 2011, the average monthly stipend paid by the government to family members of Palestinian prisoners stands at NIS 3,129 ($862), higher than the average salary of a Palestinian civil servant, which is NIS 2,882 ($794). Two and a half percent of the PA’s budget for salaries goes to prisoners’ families, the document indicated.
Issa Abd Rabbo, the most veteran of the prisoners released, received a $60,000 bonus, with the PA reportedly also offering to foot the bill for a wedding should he choose to marry. He was convicted of murdering two Israeli hikers south of Jerusalem in 1984, after tying them up at gunpoint and placing bags over their heads.
The prisoner release, the second of four phased releases as part of US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, raised ire in Israel’s right wing and among victims of terror who opposed the move.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians restarted at the end of August and have continued with covert meetings. Despite a US-imposed ban on leaks, reports suggest that that the negotiations are stalled over key issues such as continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendents.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.