Cliff May

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL -- I pay lots of taxes. Some of my money supports U.S. Special Forces, and that pleases me. I have no problem helping fund the U.S. Park Service or the Centers for Disease Control. I am, however, a tad uneasy about my tax dollars -- and yours --going to support terrorists.

You think I’m joking? The U.S. government gives more than $400 million a year to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Last week, the Israeli prime minister’s office presented figures on the PA’s payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel: In 2011-2012, the PA’s Ministry of Prisoners Affairs transferred $150 million to imprisoned terrorists, released terrorists, and the families of terrorists. Some prisoners are better paid than Palestinian police officers.

One might argue that these payments are charity – that most of the money goes to women and children who have no breadwinner at home. But Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake has not made that argument. He recently said that the salaries are paid “out of esteem for [the] sacrifice and struggle” of those who, under Palestinian laws, are seen as “martyrs,” “prisoners of war,” and resistors of “occupation.”

In other words, both incentives and rewards are in place for the killing of Israelis (and, in some cases, Americans and other foreigners) anywhere in Israel – not only in the so-called Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

The salaries reflect the severity of the crimes. A terrorist serving a five to 10 year sentence gets $1,200 a month, a terrorist serving 25 to 30 years receives $2,900, and those serving sentences of more than 30 years – for example, for the mass murder of women and children – is eligible for $3,500.

At a congressional hearing in Washington in April, Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) asked Assistant Secretary of State Anne W. Patterson: “If the PA is paying for terrorists in prison, we ought to also be willing to hit them with some economic sanctions of that sort, don't you agree?” Ambassador Patterson replied: “I think they plan to phase it out.”

Two months later, Hamas, the U.S.-government designated terrorist entity that rules Gaza, publicly ended its often lethal, seven-year feud with the PA, which rules the West Bank. The two entities announced a “government of national unity.”

Among the changes this new government has announced: The Ministry of Prisoner Affairs is moving from the PA to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and being renamed the “Authority of Prisoners’ Affairs.”

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.