Palestinian Authority Faces Massive Cut in US Aid as Taylor Force Act Targeting Terror Payments Passes House Vote
The Taylor Force Act passed the US House of Representatives by unanimous consent on Tuesday, confronting the Palestinian Authority with the prospect of a massive cut in US aid for as long as it maintains its policy of paying monthly salaries and other benefits to the families of slain or convicted Palestinian terrorists.
Named in memory of Taylor Force — the former American army officer stabbed to death during a knifing spree by a Palestinian assailant in Tel Aviv in March 2016 — the legislation prevents the transfer of funds “that directly benefit the Palestinian Authority” for a six-year period beginning in 2018 unless the PA verifiably ends its so-called “martyr payments” policy. The Taylor Force Act also requires the PA to repeal any laws enabling or favoring the payments policy, as well investigate terrorist acts for the purpose of “bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
The PA spent $355 million on the payments in 2017. Meanwhile, the US is the PA’s largest international donor, having provided over $700 million in indirect aid to the PA and to the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA in 2016.
The sponsors of the act in the House gave a fulsome welcome to its passage, one month after the legislation was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Speaking on the House floor prior to the vote, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that the bill was being passed “in the name of one brave American, Taylor Force, to honor the memories of all victims and, importantly, help prevent future victims.” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who introduced the act in February, said its passage was “an important statement from America against terrorism,” calling on his colleagues in the Senate “to vote ‘yes’ on this bill and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financing terrorism.”
Jewish and pro-Israel groups applauded the act’s passage. In a statement following today’s vote, AIPAC noted that “Lawmakers previously acted to reduce assistance to the PA by the total amount of payments it makes to terrorists and their families. However, that important step has not yet put an end to the payments, necessitating the increased pressure provided by the Taylor Force Act.”
Nathan Diament – Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union – said that the act’s passage “is a giant step toward ending the Palestinian Authority’s grotesque practice of ‘pay-for-slay.’”
Josh Block, CEO of The Israel Project, said the act sent a “very clear warning to the Palestinian Authority: the double-game is over and terrorism will not be tolerated, not in any form.”
“Those who enable, inspire, or incite, will also pay a price,” Block said.
David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said that while US aid to the PA was “important,” it should never be provided on a “carte blanche” basis. “The House has taken a crucial step towards ending the PA’s intentional misuse of foreign assistance to financially reward Palestinian terrorists and their families,” Harris said.
Harris highlighted the call in the legislation for other donor countries to the PA to take similar action. “AJC is also calling upon members of the European Parliament to launch a public inquiry into the practice,” he said.
Republican Jewish Committee Executive Director Matt Brooks said the act’s passage ” is another step toward holding the Palestinian Authority accountable for its support of terrorism.”
“The RJC will continue to vigorously advocate for swift passage of the Taylor Force Act by the Senate — the last step before it can be signed by President Trump and enacted into law,” Brooks declared.
Some of the act’s supporters expressed concern that its potential impact has been watered down by the deliberations in congressional committees, with the result that certain infrastructure projects in the PA are exempted, along with a “sunset clause” in the House version of the bill which would require the act to be renewed in six years time.
Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Committee for Israel, said that the sunset clause “has no upside, and contains a small but real downside risk of Congress failing to re-pass the bill in six years.”
“The sunset provision should be removed when the two bills are reconciled,” Pollak said. He also criticized the “unnecessarily broad exemption for all wastewater projects” that crystallized after legislators attempted to craft a more specific exemption for a $10 million wastewater project in the city of Jericho that was personally overseen by Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s representative for international negotiations.
Pollak nevertheless praised the act as a encouraging greater scrutiny both in the US and internationally into how the PA distributes the foreign taxpayer funds it receives as aid. “The Taylor Force Act raises the question of whether all types of US aid to the Palestinians are consistent with American values and interests,” he said.