House of Representatives Set for Tuesday Vote on Taylor Force Act Targeting Palestinian Authority’s ‘Pay-to-Slay’ Policy
Legislation that will condition US aid to the Palestinian Authority on a verifiable cessation of its so-called “martyr payments” policy is set to be voted on by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The Taylor Force Act — named in memory of the late former US military officer who was killed in a Palestinian stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in 2016 — will be put to a vote on Tuesday afternoon, following a debate in the morning. Taylor Force’s parents, Stuart and Robbi Force, will be in attendance.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who introduced the Taylor Force Act in the House in February 2017, welcomed the news of the vote. “It is critical that Congress pass this legislation to ensure that U.S. tax dollars do not go to supporting terrorism,” Lamborn said on Monday.
“This legislation is named for American army veteran Taylor Force, who was brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in March of 2016,” Lamborn continued. “In Taylor’s memory, we must stop sending aid money to an entity that rewards his murderer’s family.”
The 28-year-old Force, a Vanderbilt University graduate student, had been visiting Israel as part of a school-organized spring break trip. A veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Force was walking along the beachfront on March 8, 2016 when he was knifed by a Palestinian terrorist on a stabbing spree in which ten other people were wounded.
Relatives of Force’s killer, Bashar Masalha, are among the beneficiaries of the PA’s policy of paying monthly stipends to the families of slain and convicted Palestinian terrorists alike, to the tune of over $300 million annually. The 22-year-old Masalha, who was shot dead by an Israeli police officer at the end of his attack, was subsequently hailed as a “hero” by the PA’s ruling Fatah party. His family now receives a monthly base stipend of $400 from the PA, with additional benefits for each child, in perpetuity.
That the average monthly income for Palestinians in the West Bank is approximately $150 is a key reason why critics have dubbed the PA’s policy as “pay-to-slay,” arguing that it incentivizes acts of terror by doubling or even trebling a family’s income overnight. Following the passage of the Taylor Force Act by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) commented,“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 — that’s sick.”
In the interim, PA “martyrdom” payments have increased precipitously during the last twelve months, from $315 million in 2016 to $355 million in 2017.
The PA’s policy is grounded in a 2004 law which mandates monthly stipends and other benefits such as health insurance and aid with tuition fees for Palestinians who engage in the “struggle against the occupation.” Previous US concern about the policy led the PA, in 2014, to shift responsibility for its implementation from a dedicated government ministry to a PLO body, the Commission of Prisoners Affairs.
Tuesday’s House vote follows the Taylor Force Act’s approval by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 15. If passed, the PA faces the loss of $300 million in annual US aid until it ends the payments — though some supporters of the legislation as originally drafted have recently asserted the act has been watered down by the deliberations in congressional committees, permitting exemptions for certain Palestinian agencies and infrastructure projects that currently enjoy American funding.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas defended the “martyrdom payments” in June as a “social responsibility to look after innocent people affected by the incarceration or killing of their loved ones.”