The bipartisan Taylor Force Act blocks U.S. funding for the P.A. until it changes this behavior.
Editor’s Note: In April 2021, President Joe Biden reversed former President Trump’s freeze and restarted aid to the Palestinians.
The Biden administration has resumed aid to the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) as a way to jumpstart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” The obstacle to peace, however, was not the absence of U.S. assistance but the P.A.’s incentivizing of terrorism. The bipartisan Taylor Force Act blocks U.S. funding for the P.A. until it changes this behavior. There is no indication that it has, making any resumption of U.S. taxpayer aid a contravention of this important law and a further hindrance to peace.
The P.A.’s “pay-for-slay” policy was highlighted by the 2016 murder of an American tourist in Israel by a Palestinian terrorist. The tourist, named Taylor Force — a West Point graduate, U.S. Army veteran and son of one of the authors of this post — was in Tel Aviv on a school trip when he was stabbed to death.
Force was neither Israeli nor Jewish. Yet, the P.A. celebrated the killer repeatedly as a “heroic martyr” and held a large, festive funeral where he was hailed as a national hero. The murderer’s family soon began receiving benefit payments from the P.A.
The P.A. spends massively on these payments to terrorists and their families and treats this perverse benefits system as a sacred obligation. Codified in P.A. law, the system adds bonus payments for Israeli Arabs and Arab residents of Jerusalem who have Israeli IDs and therefore more freedom of movement to carry out attacks. The longer the prison sentence, the greater the payments — meaning the deadlier, the more lucrative. The P.A. employs some 550 people in its pay-for-slay bureaucracies and devotes over 7% of its budget, or $350 million, to the program, compared to just $220 million for non-terrorist welfare programs.
To address this despicable system, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act (TFA) — a bill the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) has long supported — cutting off U.S. aid to the P.A. until the pay-for-slay bureaucracy is dismantled and the laws governing it are repealed. The logic is simple: since money is fungible, aid that supplants the governance responsibilities of the P.A. frees up P.A. money to reward terrorists.
The Taylor Force Act corrected a profoundly immoral policy that had American taxpayer funds being laundered unwittingly through P.A. accounts to incentivize murder. The bill also offered a simple litmus test of the P.A.’s seriousness about making peace: If the P.A. cannot revoke the laws and infrastructure conferring special treatment for terrorists, then the P.A. itself remains an obstacle to the “peace process.”
Yet, the Biden administration claims renewed aid for the Palestinian people does not violate TFA, which bars aid programs that “directly benefit” the P.A. And news reports indicated the P.A. believes it can satisfy the U.S. administration by making terrorist compensation “needs-based” rather than based on the success of attacks, as it is now.
Empowering the P.A.?
The Biden administration also appears set to endorse and empower the P.A. by giving it preemptive rewards, such as reopening the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., the office that directly administers the pay-for-slay program.
Both these concepts are not only deeply cynical but also violate the plain meaning and intent of the law that sought to remove the United States from complicity in the P.A.’s blood-soaked support for terrorism.
The TFA already exempts aid programs that Congress determined help the Palestinian people, such as water treatment projects, childhood vaccination programs and money for East Jerusalem hospitals. And it requires a complete dismantlement of the prisoners and martyr payments bureaucracies, not the introduction of a needs-based model for them.
Indeed, heeding the TFA and demanding that the P.A. end pay-for-slay is a bipartisan, pro-democracy policy. To spend American taxpayers’ dollars funding an unreformed P.A., against Congress’ wishes, would be neither.
If the Biden administration genuinely wishes to support the Palestinian people, it should insist that the P.A. cannot be a peace partner until it stops the glorification of terrorists. The P.A.’s refusal to make peace with Israel, accompanied by its celebration of violence, is the real source of economic and humanitarian problems in Palestinian society, not the loss of U.S. aid.
If the Biden administration tries to run around the TFA, it will be guilty of money laundering for terrorists. The Biden administration should disable terror by focusing on fundamentally reforming Palestinian governance, not enabling the unrepentantly terror-sponsoring P.A. by circumventing the plain meaning of a bipartisan bill passed just three years ago.
Mike Pompeo served as America’s 70th secretary of state and is currently ACLJ senior counsel for global affairs. Sander Gerber is the CEO of Hudson Bay Capital Management, a distinguished fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Stuart Force is the father of Captain Taylor Force. This essay was first published by the American Center for Law & Justice.