The Palestinian Authority financially rewards terrorists who kill Americans and Jews, but Palestinians are the largest per-capita recipients of U.S. foreign aid. Should that continue?
In the final week of the Obama Administration, Secretary of State John Kerry authorized a $221 million transfer to the Palestinian Authority. Although the funds were subsequently frozen by the Trump Administration, many Republicans considered the money an indefensible support of an evil regime.
The Taylor Force Act, labelled H.R. 1164 in the House and S. 474 in the Senate, has been introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO5) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to stop such payments until Palestinian terrorists are no longer paid.
What the bill does
The bill, only three pages long, would cease U.S. taxpayer funding and assistance to the Palestinian Authority so long as they financially reward terrorists and the surviving family members of suicide bombers. Targets have included Americans and Jews in Israel. The determination of when that occurred would be up to the Secretary of State.
During the Obama era, U.S. payments to the Palestinians have averaged around $400 million per year, including $363.6 million last fiscal year.
Taylor Force, after whom the bill was named, was a former Army officer murdered in by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016. Force was with a college group touring Israel. Force’s parents were present at the press conference announcing the bill, in support of the legislation.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill is necessary to end the tacit U.S. approval of barbaric killings and their support by the current Palestinian regime.
“After last year’s brutal murder of Taylor Force, Israelis and Americans mourned the loss of Force, as well as the wounding of 10 others, including a pregnant woman. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority praised the murderer,” House lead sponsor Lamborn said in a statement. “Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority refused to condemn the attack, and the official Fatah Facebook page posted a statement of praise to the ‘martyrs.’ Attacks like these will continue until we use our power of the purse to actually hold the PA accountable.”
What opponents say
Opponents note that the money to the Palestinian Authority largely goes for humanitarian causes helping the people, such as hospitals and security. They also note that the Republican-controlled Congress actually approved such funds for the Palestinians in the past two years, but House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA39) placed a “hold” on it which prevented the money from being officially disbursed.
Palestinian aid from the U.S. is already subject to a good deal of legislative restrictions and vetting. For example, there’s a ban on money going to the terrorist group Hamas or other groups associated with Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist group since 1997. There’s also a ban on money going to create or support a Palestinian state that fails to recognize the sovereignty of Israel.
Odds of passage
The Senate bill has attracted eight Republican cosponsors, all Republicans, and awaits a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House bill has attracted one Republican cosponsor, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), and awaits a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The legislation was also introduced in the previous Congress by the same two lead sponsors, but failed to receive a vote in either chamber. The previous Congress’s House version was also introduced by Lamborn in mid-November, so its odds of passage were always slim, although the Senate version was introduced before the election in September.