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On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting Israel with members of his graduate class from Vanderbilt University when a Palestinian terrorist attacked civilians in Jaffa with a knife. Force was killed, and 10 others, including a pregnant woman, were wounded. The next day, the terrorist who killed Force, Bashar Masalha, was praised as a “hero and martyr” by the Fatah party (which is overseen by Mahmoud Abbas). He was given a hero’s funeral and thousands attended.
The Palestinian Authority passed a law in 2004, Law Number 14, Articles 1 and 2 that provides Masalha’s family with a pension for life, amounting to three times the average yearly salary in the West Bank.
The Palestinian government makes absolutely no attempt to hide its rewards for terrorism. In the Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law 19 of 2013, the payments were actually enhanced for a terrorist who commits a violent act and is jailed. Under this law, the longer the sentence (i.e., the greater the violence), the higher the salary that a terrorist receives. Article 4 offers free tuition to the children of those jailed. In Article 6, there is even a clothing allowance and monthly stipend linked to the cost-of-living index. Health insurance is included in Article 4, section 12. Article 5 provides the ultimate bonus: a lifetime pension for a prison term of five years (or only two years in the case of a female terrorist).
The PA allocates $315 million, nearly 8 percent of its budget, to pay terrorists in prison and the families of the “martyrs.”
In February, Senator Lindsey Graham reintroduced the Taylor Force Act that would end the sending of funds to the Palestinian Authority for its support of terror. If passed, the US Secretary of State would be required to certify that the PA is taking credible steps to stop acts of violence against the US and Israeli citizens; the PA would publicly condemn violence and assist in bringing the perpetrators to justice; and it would stop paying terrorists and their families who commit these acts. The bill is sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Tom Cotton (R-AR); Congressmen Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY); and cosponsored by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Boozman (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John Thune (R-SD).
But the Taylor Force Act may not be as helpful as it appears. The use of US tax dollars to fund terrorism is only a portion of the PA’s economic corruption. As Caroline Glick says in her book, The One State Solution:
Foreign donor governments, who pay for more than a third of the Palestinian Authority’s operating budget, have repeatedly requested that the Palestinian Authority take serious steps to remedy the situation. But it has not done so. As the continued repression of freedom of the press since Arafat’s death makes clear, the Palestinian Authority doesn’t investigate allegations of corruption and authoritarianism to redress them—rather, it hides them by silencing its critics.
In addition, some of the funds we are sending to the PA are actually helping Israel to fight terrorism:
The reason that nobody has yet brought up eliminating American security assistance to the PA – although it is important to note that the preliminary budget for FY 2017 cuts it from $70 million to $35 million – is that the most overlooked fact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past decade has been the remarkable record of the PASF [Palestinian Authority Security Forces] in helping keep Israelis safe. Ask any Israeli security official, and they will tell you that coordination with the PASF is one of the primary reasons that terrorist attacks on Israelis now consist of lone-wolf stabbings and shootings rather than mass suicide bombings, and why there are rockets from Gaza but zero from the West Bank. Despite the rhetoric of Israeli politicians about the PA being barely a step removed from terrorism, the PA has become Israel’s most important security partner on the ground.
So if the Taylor Force Act is implemented, others will likely continue to support the Palestinian Authority; those funds could continue to support rewarding terrorists. Even if the PA complies with the Act’s demands, it will be difficult to track whether they continue to honor its requirements. At least we will be taking steps to make the support of terrorists and their families more difficult.
Still there does appear to be hope elsewhere. In December, the UK temporarily suspended funding to the PA because the Brits claim, correctly, that the money winds up in the hands of terrorists. They have established specific criteria for how funding should be distributed, and to whom. Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump held up a last-minute cash giveaway of $221 million to the Palestinians that Barack Obama authorized just hours before he left office. It is unclear whether the funds have been released, or released with restrictions.
So there are three primary questions:
- Do you think the Taylor Force Act will be effective if passed?
- Should we be supporting the Palestinian Authority at all?
- Should we find a way to provide funds that holds the PA accountable for using the funds appropriately?