The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel -- with the exception of senior Palestinian officials. Last week, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, was admitted to Ichilov Hospital (pictured), the largest acute care facility in Israel. (Image source: Avishai Teicher/PikiWiki)
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.
The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government's deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and "martyrs" from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.
A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its "Pay for Slay" policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.
One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.
Despite the Israeli deductions, the terrorists and their families are continuing to receive full salaries. The only ones who are paying the price are tens of thousands of Palestinian public employees, who in the past three months have been receiving only 50% to 60% of their salaries.
In the past few months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to continue making welfare payments to the terrorists and their families, even if its costs the Palestinian government its last penny. "We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about," Abbas said. In another statement, Abbas was quoted as saying: "By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people."
Evidently, the "rest of the people" includes not only the PA employees, but also Palestinian patients who are in need of medical treatment. Abbas has now decided to punish these patients by depriving them of medical treatment in Israel.
Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the PA Ministry of Health, said that the PA government has decided to stop funding medical treatment for Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals in response to the Israeli deduction of the allowances paid to the terrorists and their families. Al-Najjar estimated the cost of the medical transfers to Israeli hospitals at $100 million each year.
Palestinian journalist Fathi Sabbah said that the decision taken by the PA Ministry of Health was "wrong, hasty and ill-considered." Noting that the decision was taken before finding alternatives to the Israeli hospitals, he said that the "decision was dangerous because the patients are being denied the right to receive medical treatment that is not available in Palestinian hospitals, endangering their lives. This is a heavy price."
Sabbah said that the talk about sending the patients to hospitals in Jordan and Egypt would increase their suffering. Many of the patients, he said, have already begun receiving medical treatment in Israel, and now they will be required to start from the beginning with new medical treatment in Jordan and Egypt.
"The Jordanian and Egyptian hospitals will not be able to deal with these patients with the required professional medical care, and the patients will be forced to return to the starting point and undergo new medical tests," Sabbah added.
"This means additional suffering for the patients and more expenses for the Palestinian government. Besides, the patients will have to bear the suffering of long hours of travelling to Egypt and Jordan. The journey from the Gaza Strip to Cairo lasts two to three days, while the return trip takes three or four days. This means that cancer patients will spend a whole week to get a dose of chemotherapy, while it takes only one day or a few hours to get the same treatment in Israel."
The PA decision to stop patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel does not apply to senior Palestinian officials.
Last week, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, was admitted to Ichilov Hospital, the largest acute care facility in Israel. Rajoub, who also heads the Palestinian Football Association and previously spent 17 years in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses, was rushed to the hospital for urgent medical treatment despite the PA's decision to ban Palestinian patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel.
However, while Israeli doctors were working hard to give Rajoub the best treatment in Ichilov Hospital, the senior Palestinian official sent a letter to the European and Spanish football associations demanding Spanish football giant Atletico Madrid cancel a post-season friendly game with an Israeli team in Jerusalem. "We are not against playing in Israel, but not in occupied Jerusalem," Rajoub wrote in his letter. Rajoub failed to mention that Teddy Stadium, where the game will take place on May 21, is actually in west Jerusalem.
Days before he was admitted to the Israeli hospital, Rajoub also called on Arabs and Muslims to "halt all forms of sports normalization with Israel."
Rajoub is not the first or last senior Palestinian official to seek medical treatment in some of Israel's best hospitals. In 2017, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, who has accused Israel of "genocide," checked into Israel's Beilinson Medical Center for treatment after he underwent a lung transplant in the US.
Palestinian leaders are again engaging in hypocrisy regarding medical treatment. On the one hand, they do not miss an opportunity to make various forms of blood libels against Israel. On the other hand, when they fall ill, the first thing they do is contact Israeli hospitals in the hope of receiving the best medical treatment in the Middle East. They do not rush to hospitals in Egypt and Jordan: they know they will not get the best treatment there.
What is disturbing is that Palestinian leaders are now putting their people's lives at risk by denying them medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. This is yet another sign of how Palestinian leaders act according to their personal interests while endangering the lives of patients whose only fault is that they do not have relatives in senior jobs in the Palestinian Authority leadership who could help them receive treatment in Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.