With bipartisan backing, the Taylor Force act was approved by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thursday. The act, named after an American veteran slain by a Palestinian while visiting Israel in 2016, will cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does not stop paying salaries to terrorists and their families. The bill now moves on to the Senate for approval.
Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), who authored the legislation, told reporters on Thursday that the intent was to stop the Palestinian program which rewarded violence.
“If you’re a young Palestinian, maybe the best thing you can do for your family in terms of income is to become a terrorist,” Graham said. “That’s sick. The longer you’re in jail, the more vicious the crime, the more money you get. That’s inconsistent with peace. It is a sick system – it needs to change.”
The bill requires that the Secretary of State certify that the PA “has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against American and Israeli citizens after being fairly tried and who have been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism, including the family members of the convicted individuals.”
In June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a public hearing in the Senate on the State Department’s budget that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to stop payments to terrorist families after President Donald Trump made a personal reques to the Palestinian leader. Soon after Tillerson’s statement, the PA denied that any such promise had been made.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the committee’s chairman, said that interviews with several Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli jails had verified that their motives were at least in part, for financial gain. Corker stated that they tried to make the attack sufficiently violent to “ensure that they did something egregious enough to at least get a five-year sentence, where the payment is stepped up.”
“That’s sick. That’s sick,” Corker emphasized.
The act was supported by all 17 Republican members of the committee. Four Democratic members supported act and four opposed it. The bill now moves on to the Senate for approval.
The US currently gives the Palestinian Authority (PA) approximately $500 million annually. The legislation would affect all but $60 million.
Husam Zomlot, the PLO’s envoy to Washington, decried the move, claiming that the payments were a social welfare system.
“This is a 52-year-old program to support families who lost their breadwinners to the atrocities of the occupation, the vast majority of whom are unduly arrested or killed by Israel,” Zomlot said. “The program has served a social and security need to provide for our people, guarantee a better future for the children and protect the needy from the many radical groups around us.”
This claim has been consistently made by the Palestinians, but the bill’s proponents respond that that American foreign aid could be distributed on the basis of need, instead of as a reward for murder and attempted murder.
Taylor Force, a native of Lubbock Texas, graduated West Point and served tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time of the murder, he was visiting Israel as part of a Vanderbilt University study group examining global entrepreneurship. Force was killed on 8 March 2016 in a terrorist attack inTel Aviv by a Palestinian that injured eleven people. Because the terrorist died while attacking Jewish Israelis, the relatives of Taylor Force’s murderer are paid a monthly pension equal to several times the average monthly Palestinian wage.