The Palestinian Authority is doling out millions of dollars in cash grants to convicted terrorists recently released from Israeli prisons in a program announced the same day as the P.A. accepted $148 million in the latest round of U.S. aid.
The authority announced Aug. 18 it would disburse $15 million in so-called “Dignified Life Grants” to more than 5,000 prisoners who had served more than five years in Israeli lockups, but had been recently released as a show of good faith by the Jewish state to bolster the Middle East peace process, according to Palestinian Media Watch.
The announcement came on the same day the State Department’s Michael Ratney, consulate general of the U.S. in Jerusalem, signed off on $148 million in aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, currently in the throes of a budget crisis.
Although the U.S. funnels about $400 million per year in aid to the authority, none of the money, by law, is supposed to go to terrorists or former terrorists. Critics say there is no way to separate money from U.S. taxpayers and the funds which go to the former prisoners.
“We have a lot of funding that goes to the PA that is fungible and co-mingled and there is a lot of concern the money is going to radical causes and extremist issues,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the bipartisan think tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told FoxNews.com.
“There are many problematic questions concerning the way the Palestinian Authority disperses funds and especially those coming from the U.S. This is not unique. We’ve seen in the past, monies allocated from the PA’s budget to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is a designated terrorist organization, and all of this points to a troubling trend whereby the U.S. has tried to get a handle on financing within the P.A.”
In August, The Associated Press reported that Israel published the names of 26 men to be freed before the latest peace talks between the Jewish State and the P.A. In all, 104 prisoners have been slated for release in four phases over a period of nine months that the U.S. has set aside for negotiations. But their freedom is reportedly contingent on progress in the talks.
It’s not clear who exactly has applied for the “Dignified Life Grants,” although Palestinian Media Watch reports that prisoners released from Israeli prisons swarmed the P.A.’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs office in Gaza following the grants’ announcement.
And among those Israel was slated to release was Mustafa al-Haj, convicted of killing an American-born settler hiking in the West Bank in 1989.
“It’s not certain our specific dollars are finding their way into terrorists’ or former terrorists’ pockets but – at the least – it’s freeing funds for the P.A. to do these types of things,” Jim Phillips, Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank, told FoxNews.com.
“The Palestinians will argue this money is not fungible, but the fact that they are making these grants is a sign to me that the P.A. has plenty of money and maybe the U.S. should be scaling back its aid to the organization.”
Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, a national conservative organization, turned up the rhetorical heat a few degrees further, telling FoxNews.com, “The Israelis were wrong to release these murderers and Obama is wrong to pay them a bonus for their evil actions. No good can come with any cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
“These are repeat, serial terrorists and murderers that we have been funding. And The more we learn about the twisted foreign policy of the Obama Administration, the better we understand why the president is so inept to handle any issue foreign or domestic.”
Congress hasn’t passed immigration legislation, but that hasn’t stopped President Obama from issuing directives that grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Last week, the Obama Administration issued the latest in a line of policy directives granting amnesty by default. This latest directive instructs Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials not to enforce immigration laws in cases where an illegal alien is the primary provider for any minor child – regardless of the child’s immigration status – or the parent or guardian of a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
In a statement about the new directive, House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R–VA) declared:
President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants.
In June of last year, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum telling U.S. immigration officials how they should “enforce the Nation’s immigration laws against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home.” The move essentially served to implement major portions of the DREAM Act – which has been introduced and failed in Congress more than 30 times – by executive fiat.
Efforts to preserve and protect families are important considerations when it comes to immigration reform. Heritage has often argued that “strong families are priceless, providing an abundance of benefits to both adults and children and creating the bonds of strong societies.” Any such effort, however, should be not only compassionate but also fair and respectful of the rule of law. As we’ve said before:
A proper solution would uphold the principles of immigration reform and not open the door to a blanket amnesty. Finding an actual solution through the legislative process would give the law legitimacy and more permanency, and it might even result in a bipartisan agreement… In our system of government, Congress is the legislative branch and is responsible for making the laws. Presidents are supposed to “faithfully execute” the laws to the best of their ability, not reshape them to suit their own policy goals.
Instead, fixing America’s broken immigration system requires a more thoughtful approach. Neither sweeping executive action nor a massive, do-it-all-at-once bill offers truly meaningful reform. In fact, any path that promises amnesty would only make matters worse.
There is a better way forward – a practical, fair, and responsible path to address the nation’s broken borders and immigration mess. If only Congress and the Administration would listen.
Most believe zombies are relegated to the movies and video games, but Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn has highlighted the Department of Homeland Security’s participation in a staged “zombie apocalypse.”
According to Coburn’s most recent oversight report “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities,” first responders were approved grant funds for a $1,000 entry fee to a week-long HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit in San Diego where the “marquee” event was a demonstration of a “zombie apocalypse.”
“[Strategic Operations] performed two shows on Halloween, which featured 40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit. Conference attendees were invited to watch the shows as part of their education in emergency response training. [HALO president Brad] Barker explained that, ‘the idea is to challenge authorities as they respond to extreme medical situations where people become crazed and violent, creating widespread fear and disorder,’” the report reads.
Coburn was not pleased by the event or much of the waste detailed in his report.
“For instance, paying for first responders to attend a HALO Counterterrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse does little to discourage potential terrorists. I hope this report encourages DHS to award funds based on calculated risk, not politics,” Coburn said upon the report’s release. “Congress has a duty to ensure that this grant program does not become a parochial, pork-barrel entitlement program. We need to help the program fulfill its original goal of providing funds for projects in areas most at risk.”
The government has spent over $35 billion on DHS grant programs since 2003, and according to Coburn, there is no measure that Americans are safer today than they were before the multibillion dollar expenditures.
Also highlighted in the report is an underwater robot purchased with a $98,000 grant to look for “sunken treasure,” surveillance at the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres spring training facilities at a price of $90,000, a Bearcat armored vehicles to protect a small town’s pumpkin festival, $41,000 for a Remote-Control Helicopter in Seattle and $6,200 in sno-cone machine purchases.
“We have seen the value of these grants time and again,” said DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler in a statement reported by The Huffington Post. “As envisioned by Congress, these grants have directly supported the development and sustainment of core state and local capabilities identified as national strengths in the 2012 National Preparedness Report – from helping to save lives and minimize damage during the tornadoes in the South and Midwest, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy to building a national network of fusion centers to strengthen critical information sharing and terrorism prevention.”