Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee overwhelmingly approved the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority as punishment for its support of terrorism. Introduced by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the measure went through by a vote of 17 to 4.
The senators voting against it were New Jersey's Cory Booker, Connecticut's Chris Murphy, New Mexico's Tom Udall, and Oregon's Jeff Merkley. Justifying his vote, Booker cited regional security implications and other factors, while Udall said that in the "West Bank there are very serious problems there: poverty, lots of checkpoints, and hopelessness so you kind of have the conditions for terrorism on the ground." Merkley and Murphy have yet to offer specific reasons for their opposition.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently became a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation, all but securing enough Democratic votes to fend off a possible filibuster.
If passed on the full Senate floor and signed into law by President Trump, the legislation would cut off the $400 million the U.S. gives to the P.A. annually, exempting certain humanitarian funding. For example, money would still go to the Israeli-run East Jerusalem Hospital Network, where the P.A. sends Palestinian patients seeking treatment unavailable in the West Bank.
The cutoff is in response to its so-called "pay-to-slay" initiative, which awards cash to terrorists and their families.
U.S. taxpayer funding of the Palestinian Authority has been badly abused by an entity that seems to have no interest in peace. The bill in question, named after one of the victims of a terrorist whose family was compensated by the P.A.'s "Martyrs Fund," seems like a bipartisan no-brainer.
Despite numerous appeals by the Trump administration to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas to stop the practice of paying terrorists' families. As the P.A. put it this month, it "will continue its national, moral, and humanitarian responsibility towards the occupation's victims, the victims of the organized state terror, and the victims of the herds of settlers and their terror organizations."
This past week, Abbas personally said, "I don't intend to cease payment for families of prisoner martyrs, even if it costs me my seat, I will continue to pay them until my last day."
Congress, returning from recess next week, will have a full plate of urgent matters—like raising the debt ceiling and renewing the National Flood Insurance Program, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. But even amid partisan gridlock, it's also worth taking the time to defund a terrorist-rewarding entity.
Jackson Richman is the Capital Commentary/Op-Ed Editor for the Greater Washington area Jewish newspaper, Kol HaBirah. He can be followed on Twitter at @jacksonrichman.
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