Congress is Overdue to Pass the Taylor Force Act

It is a simple, uncontroversial principle: U.S. taxpayer dollars should never go to terrorists who attack U.S. citizens, interests, or allies. Yet, that is exactly what happens with U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. Congress needs advance American values and interests in peace by clearly stopping this practice.

Two years ago, Taylor Force, a heroic American, a West Point graduate and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was murdered by a Palestinian while touring Israel as a civilian. Israeli police killed the terrorist, Bashar Masalha. In contrast, Palestinians danced in the street celebrating his “martyrdom” and the Palestinian Authority (PA) rewarded his family with a sizable monthly stipend.

This wasn’t an isolated event. The Palestinian Authority runs an extensive ‘pay to slay’ program.

PA laws describe those who attack Israel as “an integral part of the weave of Arab Palestinian society,” and any Palestinian jailed for such terrorism, or their families if they are killed, is legally entitled to government support.

As soon as a terrorist is arrested, the PA provides them a salary and, for some, a guaranteed government job upon release. The bloodier the crime and longer the sentence, the greater the reward. Those jailed for less than three years receive a $368 monthly salary; those in jail for three to five years, $570 a month; and those serving at least 30 years get $3,400 every month. This in a society with 20 percent unemployment and an average monthly salary of under $300.

The families of, as official Palestinian documents put it, “those martyred and wounded as a result of being participants or bystanders in the revolution,” such as that of Force’s killer, also receive a monthly payment, health insurance, and tuition assistance.

Making matters worse, the family of Force’s murderer is being paid, indirectly, by American taxpayers.

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority budgeted $350 million to reward terrorism – around $160 million for jailed and released terrorists plus $190 million for terrorists’ families. This is roughly what American taxpayers contribute to Palestinians through payment of PA debts and direct support of projects in PA territories (excluding several hundred million dollars to the United National Reliefs and Works Agency).

Money is fungible, and U.S. funding used, for example, to meet debt commitments and humanitarian needs, frees up the PA to dedicate money to financing and incentivizing terror. This diverts money away from Palestinian people, radicalizes them, and eliminates the possibility of durable peace with Israel. That undermines U.S. interests and makes America effectively complicit in support of terror.

To avoid unintentional U.S. complicity and help force the PA to choose butter over terror, Congress began over a year ago to consider the Taylor Force Act, which would suspend U.S. assistance until the State Department certifies the Palestinian Authority is: “taking steps to end violence,” “publicly condemning such acts of violence,” and “has terminated payments for acts of terrorism.”

For strategic and humanitarian grounds, the United States should support the Palestinian people. A viable, uncorrupt, moderate PA serves U.S. and Israeli interests. Indeed, Israel and the PA cooperate on security matters, serving the interests of both parties, and it is important that such cooperation continue.

But none of these interests are served when the PA pays terrorists. Nor will suspending aid that amounts to roughly 8 percent of PA’s budget, trigger its collapse. Instead, it would pressure the PA to choose between terror and its people, revealing its true nature.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a version of the Taylor Force Act, and it is now up to the Senate to do likewise. Organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), we led a delegation comprised of Taylor Force’s parents and sister, West Point friends of his, and a West Point-educated retired U.S. general, last week that met senior White House officials and pivotal Democratic and Republican Members of Congress urging the Senate to pass immediately a stand-alone Taylor Force Act and President Trump to sign it.

The response was very positive, yet a few anonymous Senators are holding up the legislation despite overwhelming bipartisan support. We call upon Senate Republican and Democratic leaders to allocate debate time to enable an up/down vote that will advance this legislation and shine a light on PA support for terror. We then expect President Trump to sign it into law.

Discussion of the Taylor Force Act already has changed the narrative about the Palestinian issue, but a stand-alone vote by Congress on the Taylor Force Act would send a strong U.S. signal that the Palestinian Authority’s bounty for bloodshed program must come to an end.

Originally appeared in The Hillon March 4, 2018.