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July 17, 2017 4:39 pm

Top Senator Demands Palestinians Change ‘Martyr Payments’ Laws as Taylor Force Act Moves Closer to Potential Passage

avatar by Ben Cohen

Sen. Lindsey Graham announcing his support for the Taylor Force Act. Photo: Screenshot.

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepares to pass a bill that would massively cut aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ends its $300 million in annual payments to convicted terrorists and their families, one of the legislation’s leading advocates has said that the PA must change its own laws regarding the payments as a condition for continued US assistance.

“PA money is going to be cut off until they change their laws basically rewarding people for being terrorists,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Weekly Standard (TWS) on Monday. In September 2016, Graham introduced the Taylor Force Act — named for the American fatality in a March 2016 terrorist attack in Israel — which is now set to be comfortably passed by the Foreign Relations Committee before the August recess.

“We have gotten the bill in a place where it’s going to receive overwhelming support,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told TWS.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council expressed support for the legislation as well. “The Taylor Force Act correctly identifies a significant issue and offers an option to address a major issue of concern,” the spokesperson said.

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The issue of the PA’s ongoing policy of “martyr payments” has emerged as the main stumbling block in the initial attempts of President Donald Trump to revive direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. PA President Mahmoud Abbas — who assured Trump in Washington, DC in May that Palestinian children were being raised in a “culture of peace” — earlier this month pledged to retain the policy even if doing so cost him his office.

“Even if I will have to leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary (rawatib) of a martyr (Shahid) or a prisoner, as I am the president of the entire Palestinian people, including the prisoners, the martyrs, the injured, the expelled, and the uprooted,” a July 5 Facebook statement published in Abbas’ name declared.

The Foreign Relations Committee will likely tweak the bill before approving it, with a careful eye on any remaining loopholes. Last week, former US government officials Elliott Abrams and Daniel Shapiro testified before the committee in favor of the Taylor Force Act, offering further suggestions intended — as Shapiro put it — to “effectively advance the goal of ending Palestinian payments to terrorist prisoners, while avoiding unintended harm to other US and Israeli interests.”

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