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November 15, 2017 4:20 pm

House Foreign Affairs Committee Passage of Taylor Force Act Will ‘Force PA to Choose’ Between US Assistance or Terror Payments

avatar by Ben Cohen

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Taylor Force Act. Photo: Screenshot.

US legislators and Jewish organizations hailed the passage by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday of a bill that conditions American aid to the Palestinian Authority on a verifiable end to its policy of paying salaries and other benefits that encourage terrorism.

The legislation — known as the Taylor Force Act — passed by a unanimous vote of the committee. Named after the former American army officer murdered in a Palestinian stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in 2016, the Taylor Force Act was among a raft of Middle East-related measures approved by the committee on Wednesday, among them a bill sanctioning foreign entities that aid Hamas, and another clamping down on Palestinian terrorism more broadly.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who introduced the Taylor Force Act in the House in February earlier this year, said it was “great news” that the legislation “has moved through the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

“Congress must use its constitutional power of the purse to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for their material support and financing of terrorism,” Lamborn declared. “In Taylor Force’s memory and all other innocent victims of Palestinian terrorism, I urge House Leadership to bring this bill to the floor so we can ultimately make this legislation into American law.”

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The legislation passed through the committee’s mark-up with three exemptions for funding of Palestinian wastewater clearance and child vaccination programs, as well as for Palestinian hospitals in eastern Jerusalem. House Foreign Affairs Committee co-chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said that the legislation would compel the PA to “choose” between US aid and a policy dubbed by critics as “pay-to-slay.”

“Since 2003, it has been Palestinian law to reward Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with a monthly paycheck,” Royce said in a statement. “With this legislation, we are forcing the PA to choose between U.S. assistance and these morally reprehensible policies, and I am pleased to see this measure move forward in both chambers with so much support.”

Several Jewish groups reacted immediately to the act’s passage in committee. Noting that Wednesday’s progress in the House came after the passage of the Taylor Force Act by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 3, Nathan Diament — executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union (OU) — stated that the news “sends a clear message to the Palestinians, and to the world, that the US will no longer tolerate the diversion of its aid to fund a system that rewards terrorists for the murder of Israelis and Americans.”

The OU’s President, Mark Bane, expressed “special appreciation” for Rep. Royce and his Democratic colleague Rep. Eliot Engel, the co-chair of committee.

Matt Brooks — executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) — said that the “passage of the Taylor Force Act by the House Foreign Affairs Committee now paves the way for passage of the bill by the full House of Representatives.”

“This bill, spearheaded by Republicans in the House and Senate, is in line with our party’s rock solid commitment to our great ally, Israel,” Brooks stated. “The RJC is very proud to have been the first and strongest supporter of the Taylor Force Act, and we promise to continue our dogged work to pass the bill.”

A somewhat discordant note was sounded by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which said that while it continued to support the Taylor Force Act, the amended version approved by the committee was “much weakened.”

In a statement, the ZOA charged that the funding exemption for Palestinian wastewater clearance was “apparently reflective of a direct request by the White House to enable Jason Greenblatt, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, to have leverage over the PA by giving them additional funds free of the Taylor Force Act restrictions.”

Passage of the act, the ZOA asserted, “means the US will continue to give the Palestinian Arabs US taxpayer dollars for things like hospitals, wastewater projects, security cooperation, and ‘refugee’ assistance, and to help cover their bills, like electricity to Israeli utility companies, regardless of their continuing the ‘pay to slay’ model.”

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