Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit determined in a legal opinion Wednesday that Israel should not provide social security benefits to families of Palestinian security prisoners who receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority.
In the opinion that Mendelblit submitted to the National Labor Court, the attorney general explained that the salaries distributed by the PA to the prisoners jailed in Israel should be recognized as income.
The move comes following an appeal filed by an East Jerusalem resident who had been denied this benefit. The son of the appellant was convicted of a nationalistically-motivated attempted murder and is now serving his sentence in an Israeli prison. Israel's National Insurance Institute rejected the father’s request for a social security benefit after he failed to provide documents regarding payments he and his family receive from the PA due to his son’s incarceration.
The Jerusalem Regional Labor Court rejected the man’s appeal, claiming that these payments were tantamount to an income, since he has exclusive control over the funds. In his petition to the National Labor Court that followed, he argued that the payments he receives constitute community support, which he transfers to his son.
According to Mendelblit, the money transferred by the PA to the families of security prisoners should be considered income whether it remains in their hands or passed on to their jailed relatives. The attorney general therefore said the appeal should be denied.
Mendelblit related to an earlier ruling by the National Labor Court, according to which social security benefits cannot be denied from those who are financially supported by their families or communities.
The attorney general argues this does not apply to security prisoners since they receive "payments based on PA legislation as a reward for carrying out offenses against Israel on behalf of Palestinians. These installments are not in any way similar to payments that are made voluntarily as a human gesture.”
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Mendelblit noted that “any other interpretation could give an incentive to illegally transfer funds [from the PA to security prisoners], and even encourage terror attacks.” He added that accepting any other interpretation of the law "would mean the state recognizes that security prisoners receive illegal funds from their families, would encourage such transfers and thus grant the families rights following their illegal actions.”
Mendelblit's legal opinion also noted that the PA increases the payments transferred to security prisoners according to the length of their jail sentence, which allows them a stable income after their release from Israeli prison.
Moreover, the attorney general said that prisoners who have been released are employed by the offices of the PA, receive tuition money for their academic studies and medical insurance among others. Furthermore, the PA transfers each month funds to the company that operates the canteens in Israeli prisons to purchase products for all prisoners who are West Bank residents.