(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) A bill aimed at curbing Palestinian support for terrorism is experiencing a few stumbles in the U.S. Senate even though the basic thrust of the bill enjoys broad, bipartisan support.
The Taylor Force Act, named after a U.S. Army veteran (and West Point graduate) who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while on a civilian trip to Israel in March of 2016, would halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the PA stops a program of its own that subsidizes terrorism.
The Palestinian program compensates terrorists convicted by Israeli courts and provides payments for family members of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis. The PA claims the terrorists are legitimate “combatants” – even though, by all reasonable definition, the deliberate murder of ordinary civilians is not “combat.”
The original bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would eliminate all State Department aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the PA stops its program. The PA’s stipend to terrorists and their families amounts to some $300 million per year. U.S. assistance, mostly (but not all) in the guise of “humanitarian relief” to Gaza and the West Bank, reaches some $700 million annually.
The Jerusalem Post reports that some senators are concerned that the bill fails to include fairly standard “waiver” language allowing the president to keep the aid flowing if he officially determines it serves the interests of U.S. national security. The Trump administration has not offered comment on the bill.
“I would make an exception for the hospitals,” said Elliot Abrams, a strongly pro-Israel senior advisor to three former Republican presidents, in testimony Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explaining why certain humanitarian aid, but not direct payments to the PA, should continue. But Abrams expressly opposed giving waiver authority to the president, saying that Congress would just be punting the issue to the president “without actually having any impact on the Palestinian practice of paying terrorists for their acts.”
Even some Israeli generals oppose the Taylor Force Act (at least without significant changes), saying that it might undermine effective security arrangements between Israel and the PA – but others strongly disagree.
Committee chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said he supports the bill as a whole, but questioned its “all of nothing” approach.
“Understanding how we effectively eliminate financial support for the PA by tailoring our assistance is a little harder,” he said.
Numerous news outlets reported senators indicating broad agreement with the overall bill, but with the expectations that some tweaks involving presidential waivers and humanitarian assistance would likely be included in the final law.
Still, some senators describe the bill as a moral imperative that requires a brighter-line stance.
“Not one dime of U.S. taxpayer money should go to the Palestinian Authority so long as it rewards the families of terrorists,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. “Taylor was the type of young man every parent hopes their son will be, and we should his honor his service and sacrifice by bringing this bill to the Senate floor for a vote and sending it to the President’s desk.”
Outside groups urged the Senate to pass the bill. A Christian-oriented education- and advocacy group called Liberty Counsel scathingly describes the Palestinian terrorist-subsidy program as “pay to slay.”
“It’s unconscionable,” said Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, “that American taxpayer dollars are being used by the Palestinian Authority to brainwash young Palestinians to hate the Jewish people and to pay terrorists to ruthlessly murder Israelis and Americans.”
A prominent group called the Israeli-American Coalition for Action also has been pushing for the bill’s passage.
“This practice of incentivizing, glorifying, and rewarding terrorists serves as a major obstacle to advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” it says on its web site. “We are looking forward to working, in a bi-partisan fashion, to advance this critical piece of legislation.”
So far, the government of Israel and the powerful American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have both withheld comment on particulars of the bill.