Congressmen unequivocally condemn official Palestinian salary-for-terror policy, as the Taylor Force Act passes a key hurdle.
US lawmakers denounced on Thursday the Palestinian Authority’s “sick” policy of paying salaries to terrorists and their families after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act — which conditions $300 million of annual aid from the US on the PA ending the policy.
The committee approved the act by a 17-4 vote on Thursday morning, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the committee’s chairman, announced.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the principal aim of the bill, which will now return to the Senate for a vote during the fall session, was to prevent the PA from providing financial incentives for acts of terrorism.
“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 act is named in memory of Taylor Force — a former US Army officer and veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who was murdered in Tel Aviv in a Palestinian stabbing attack in March 2016. The 28-year-old Force, a Vanderbilt University graduate student, had been visiting Israel as part of a school-organized spring break trip.
“This is a big day for the Taylor Force family,” Graham said at a press briefing following the vote. “This bill will cut off all funding to the PA until they change their laws which reward terrorism, which reward people for killing a young man like Taylor Force. I don’t want his death to be in vain.”
Corker said that the legislation “will force the Palestinian Authority to make a choice: either face the consequences of stoking violence or end this detestable practice immediately.”
Corker added that interviews with several Palestinian prisoners had shown that part of their motive for engaging in terror was 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.
Both Corker and Graham pointed out that Force’s murderer, Bashar Masalha, had been lauded as a hero by Palestinians after he was shot dead by an Israeli police officer at the scene of the stabbing spree. “I cannot look the Taylor Force family in the eye and say that giving the PA money is an investment for peace, or for the American taxpayer,” Graham said.
Corker said that the Foreign Relations Committee’s debate had resulted in a “better bill.”
“It’s crisp, it’s surgical, it’s intended to change the behavior of the Palestinian Authority, but not hurt the Palestinian people,” Corker said.
US Jewish leaders warmly welcome the passage of the bill by the committee. “The act passed with strong bipartisan support, and we hope that it’ll be taken up by the full Senate once they return from the summer recess,” Nathan Diament — executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center — told The Algemeiner after the vote.
Six Democrats were among the 17 senators who voted in favor of the act: Ben Cardin (MD), Robert Menendez (NJ), Christopher Coons (DE), Tim Kaine (VA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Ed Markey (MA). “If you look at this group, they come from across the spectrum,” Diament observed. “You have Cardin and Menendez and Coons who are fairly centrist, but you also have Markey and Kaine, who are more on the left.”
Four senators, all Democrats, voted against the act: Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Murphy (CT), Tom Udall (NM) and Jeff Merkley (OR).
Diament said that if the Palestinians “do what they are supposed to do,” the current flow of aid to the PA can be preserved. “It’s in their hands, that’s what people need to understand,” he noted.
Criticism of the act for not being extensive enough came from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which said that US humanitarian aid ostensibly meant for hospitals and public utilities can still seep back into PA coffers, thereby indirectly funding the terror payments. The ZOA said that it would campaign against any further amendments to the legislation that would weaken the conditions on US funding for the PA.