House Passed Bill That Aims to End Palestinian Payments to Martyr Families

December 6, 2017
In The News

By Jenna Lifhits

A bill that would pressure the Palestinian Authority to stop financially rewarding acts of terror against Israelis and Americans easily passed the House of Representatives Tuesday.

The Taylor Force Act would restrict U.S. aid until the Palestinians end their multimillion dollar program to monetarily reward terrorism. The PA set aside about $344 million in 2017 for payments to the families of so-called "martyrs" and terrorists who are or were imprisoned in Israeli jails, while taking in millions in foreign aid from the United States.

"Since 2003, it has been Palestinian law to reward Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with a monthly paycheck," House Foreign Affairs chairman Ed Royce said during the bill's markup last month. "These policies incentivize terrorism. With this legislation, we are forcing the PA to choose between U.S. assistance and these morally reprehensible policies."

"We're talking about a system that involves paying people on a sliding scale based on the death and destruction that they cause," the panel's top Democrat, Eliot Engel, said Tuesday. "It's simply sickening."

Introduced in the House by Colorado congressman Doug Lamborn, the legislation passed by simple voice vote Tuesday. On the Senate side, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham earlier reintroduced the Taylor Force Act, which is named after an Army veteran and graduate student who was fatally stabbed in a March 2016 terror attack in Tel Aviv. Graham's bill was then incorporated into the 2018 foreign operations bill and also passed by the Senate's foreign relations panel, but has not yet seen a full Senate vote. The Trump administration has declared strong support for the legislation.

Since its reintroduction, lawmakers have proposed several tweaks, such as exceptions for certain kinds of aid. The House-passed bill would not affect security assistance, such as funding for PA civil security forces in the West Bank. It would also maintain aid for hospitals in east Jerusalem, wastewater projects, and child vaccination programs.

Some lawmakers argued that making exceptions to the bill would undermine it. "That flexibility will be used, once again, to circumvent the spirit of the law and congressional intent," said Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen during the bill's markup. She also noted, for the purposes of the PA's so-called "pay-to-slay" program, "money is fungible."

The House-passed legislation would condition aid on the PA "taking credible steps" to end acts of violence against Israelis or Americans, "publicly condemning" such acts, stopping payments for acts of terrorism, and revoking its laws codifying those payments.

It also requires the administration to report to Congress on "which of the PA's dangerous actions are continuing," Royce said Tuesday, "so that Congress can determine how to apply pressure going forward."

A range of pro-Israel groups lobbied for the legislation's passage, with Christians United for Israel (CUFI) at the fore.

To read this article in its original format, see The Weekly Standard