Pass the Taylor Force Act Now
Twenty-nine-year-old US Army veteran Taylor Force had served his country in Iran and Afghanistan, but did not die in battle. The Lubbock, Texas, native and West Point graduate was murdered while walking on a beach promenade on a Vanderbilt University graduate school trip abroad in March 2016.
The site of his murder was Jaffa, Israel — but it could have happened in London, Paris or Texas. In the past, jihadist terrorism primarily targeted Jews in Israel, but now it hits anywhere and anyone, terrorizing innocent civilians around the world.
There is no better symbol for the war on terrorism than Taylor Force. He fought bravely for America in life, fell victim to terrorism in death and now lives on as the inspiration for efforts to defeat terrorism.
There are many ways to fight terrorism. Most involve proactive and reactive offensive and defensive steps by militaries, law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies. But there are also steps that can be taken by our lawmakers.
The Taylor Force Act, sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker and co-sponsored by top Democrats, would require the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop compensating convicted terrorists and their families, or face a freeze in aid from the United States.
The bill would demand that the PA end its “pay for slay” policy that resulted in the family of Force’s murderer receiving a hefty monthly stipend, like other families of terrorists.
The PA distributed some $300 million to the families of terrorists in 2016, coincidentally the same sum that the US annually provides the PA.
“Taylor was an American hero who was brutally murdered at the hands of terrorists,” Graham said. “Yet instead of condemning this horrific attack — and so many others like it — the PA rewards terrorists. These rewards for terrorist attacks are inconsistent with American values. They are inconsistent with decency. And they are certainly inconsistent with peace. Simply put, you can’t be a partner in peace when you are paying people to commit acts of terror. It is long past time to let the PA know that these practices are wholly unacceptable.”
Much like sanctions on Iran that harmed its economy, and how removing Iran from the international banking system caused the Islamic Republic to make concessions, a financial game plan can be successful with the Palestinians. Terrorist organizations cannot succeed without financial support, so they must be isolated financially.
The Taylor Force Act has been advancing in the Senate and the House of Representatives, thanks to its broad, bipartisan support and the backing and moral clarity of US President Donald Trump. Support from both sides of the aisle cannot be taken for granted nowadays and proves that there is a consensus in America on there being zero tolerance for terrorism.
A similar bill has been proposed in the Knesset. There, too, it enjoys the support of the entire political spectrum, which in the Jewish state is also no easy feat.
But the bills in both countries have faced roadblocks. In the US, some Democratic leaders have insisted on watering down the bill and granting the PA too long a time to stop funding terrorism. There is also an effort to add a sunset clause that could allow the PA to return to funding terrorists.
It is possible that if and when an American Middle East peace plan is announced, the bill will be shelved. This would be a tragic mistake, because terrorism must be fought without regard to diplomatic efforts.
In Israel, the bill has run into games of bureaucracy and political credit. It was proposed by MK Elazar Stern of the Yesh Atid party. Stern, who supports sweeping legislation on matters of religion and state, is anathema to most Orthodox MKs. For the bill to move forward, it needs the support of the Defense Ministry, led by defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Lieberman.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Avi Dichter (Likud) complained that the Defense Ministry is stalling the bill, while Israel continues to give the PA NIS 1.2 billion in tax and tariff revenues that Israel collects for the PA every year.
A terrorism victims’ organization has started a campaign against Lieberman. Dichter pointed a finger at the Defense Ministry representative who testified to his committee.
“Five months have passed, and the cabinet ministries still haven’t presented my committee with legislation that would freeze the funds the PA pays to terrorists,” Dichter said. “We see a fire approaching, we have a supertanker that could put it out, and you are telling us to wait.”
Dichter’s statement should apply both in Israel and the US. It should be common sense that terrorism cannot be tolerated. How can the US keep on giving so much money to terrorists when it is fighting terrorism?
After the US helped defeat the Islamic State, the war on terrorism continues. In the spirit of Taylor Force, now is the time for the US to win.
The author is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity. He can be reached at [email protected] gmail.com. A version of this article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.