Taylor Force Act Represents ‘180-Degree’ Turn in US Stance on Palestinian Authority Terror Payments, Says Leading Advocate
The leading private advocate of pending US legislation that sanctions the Palestinian Authority for financially incentivizing terrorism pronounced himself “very satisfied” on Wednesday, as the Senate prepared for an imminent final vote on the provisions of the Taylor Force Act.
“It’s a great relief that Congress has gotten behind the Taylor Force Act in a bipartisan way,” Sander Gerber
– a prominent New York-based finance executive who has been praised by several US legislators for his vocal support of the legislation – told The Algemeiner.
Named in memory of the former American army officer stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in March 2016, the Taylor Force Act passed the House of Representatives by unanimous consent in December 2017. Gerber — who joined forces with the Force family after their son’s murder to counter the PA’s long-established policy of paying salaries and other benefits to convicted terrorists and their families — said he was “very satisfied” with the final version of the act, which will be incorporated into an omnibus appropriations bill currently scheduled for a March 23 vote in the Senate.
Gerber argued that while the legislation will not cut every single cent of US aid to the Palestinians, it carried a political and moral significance far beyond any of its strictly financial measures.
“The biggest impact lies in the requirements on the State Department and the US representative at the UN to make known and report upon the Palestinian ‘pay-for-slay’ infrastructure,” Gerber said.
In 2017, the PA spent $355 million on payments to the families of terrorists who were either convicted by an Israeli court or died in the process of executing their attacks. Meanwhile, the US is the Palestinians’ largest international donor, having provided over $700 million in aid to the PA and the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA in 2016.
Of the $200 million of US aid that “directly benefits” the PA, approximately $125 million will be cut once the legislation is passed, according to Gerber. On that front, Gerber awarded the final version of the legislation a “B minus.”
“From a US taxpayer perspective, I don’t think any money should be going to a terror-supporting entity,” Gerber said.
However, he continued, “from a policy perspective, whether or not the US cuts aid to the PA by 200 or 300 or 400 million dollars, it’s not going to change the PA’s practice of paying terrorists. This is something that is embedded within their societal structure.”
In Gerber’s view, the “narrative” consequences of the legislation are deserving of an “A minus.” The legislation proved, he said, that the US Congress “understands that this isn’t just about PA incitement of terror.”
Gerber stressed that Congress had grasped that the PA was “incentivizing terror.”
This realization provided an opportunity to help Americans and others reach “a full understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Gerber said.
“Up until now, the barrier to a resolution of the conflict has been falsely blamed on Israeli settlements,” Gerber said. The legislation, he said, would focus attention on “removing an incentive structure that is consuming more than 7 percent of the Palestinians’ national budget.”
On the issue of Palestinian entities exempted from the legislation’s financial penalties, Gerber said that bipartisan agreement was reached on Sunday on a $5 million cap on aid to Palestinian wastewater projects. He praised Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) for reaching agreement with his party colleagues on the scale of the exemption.
“Elliot’s decision to do that cleared the way for the passage of the act,” Gerber said.
Two further exemptions have been made for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network and for a children’s vaccination program.
Gerber also paid tribute to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) for their efforts to see the legislation through. The legislators had been “willing to take this up at a time when people were dumbfounded and in disbelief that the PA actually had a ‘pay-for-slay’ system,” Gerber said.
Last year, Senator Graham credited Gerber as the individual who “brought me this issue, explaining to me that the Palestinian law is so corrupt.”
Gerber expressed minor disappointment that the legislation does not authorize the US Treasury Department to sanction those individual PA officials who manage and operate the terror payments system. But again, he said, specific weaknesses should not mask the historic achievement the legislation represents.
“Congress is calling on all donor countries to the PA to cease direct budgetary support until it stops the incentivizing payments,” Gerber noted. “The State Department is being urged to highlight the issue of these payments in its multilateral and bilateral engagements.”
Gerber described the new US position as a “180-degree change” from its historic dealings with the PA.
“It’s important for people to understand that this is not just about money,” Gerber concluded.