Hundreds of Former Israeli Generals Warn U.S. Taylor Force Act Could Create Security Risks for Israel

Commanders for Israel's Security say that, in its current form, the proposed bill would reduce the Palestinian Authority's ability to prevent terror attacks

File photo: Palestinian security forces line up the street in Bethlehem, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
File photo: Palestinian security forces line up the street in Bethlehem, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Commanders for Israel's Security, an organization consisting of hundreds of former Israeli generals and senior security and intelligence figures, has warned that the "Taylor Force Act," a bill that would cut all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families, could create a security crisis and hurt Israel's military cooperation with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the organization said that it supports the major goal of the proposed legislation – named after Taylor Force, an American citizen and army veteran who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist during a trip to Israel last year - but thinks that the details of the proposal need to be changed. According to the group, changes need to be made in order to avoid a situation in which the PA would lose its ability to operate its security and intelligence forces in the West Bank, which currently work together with Israel to prevent terror attacks. 

"The proposed legislation, which calls for withdrawing funds from vital economic projects – whether directly benefitting the PA or not – and from NGOs, does not meet the test" of acting against the PA's payments to terrorists without harming Israel's security, according the group's statement. The statement emphasized that if the bill were enacted in its current formation it may "undermine PA stability; expand the circle of frustration and hostility; erode the security coordination; and thus hurt Israeli security." 

The organization quotes the Israeli military's chief of staff, General Gadi Eizenkot, who said earlier this week that security coordination with the PA contributes to Israel's security. The statement comes at a time when Democratic legislators on Capitol Hill are looking for ways to change the legislation's language and conditions, in order to take action against the PA financial support for terrorists and their families, without putting the basic functioning of the PA at risk. 

The former commanders ended their statement with the following: "Demanding that the PA ends incitement, continues fighting terror, and upgrades security coordination with our forces – certainly! Hindering the PA’s ability to do all that – absolutely not!" The challenge is to achieve the two goals at the same time. 

Noah Pollak, a conservative political consultant who supports the legislation and has been working to promote it, told Haaretz in reply to the letter: "There are, of course, numerous former Israeli generals and security officials - such as Bogie Yaalon, Amos Yadlin, and several former heads of the Shin Bet - who disagree, and understand the simple truth that rewarding terror brings more terror, not less. But the wisdom of this bill does not depend on the political views of ex-generals. We respect their service but are unconvinced that it is in the American interest to continue funding an entity that rewards and celebrates the murder of our citizens."

A group of Republican Senators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC,) proposed the bill that would cut off all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority back in February.

According to Graham, the legislation isn't aimed at crippling the Palestinian Authority. Instead, it conditions the transfer of any American funding to the Palestinian Authority on a cessation of all monetary support offered by the PA to Palestinian terrorists and their families. 

"Americans want to help the Palestinians, but not if that money ends up supporting terrorism," Graham explained. He said that if the Palestinian Authority stopped the policy of financing convicted terrorists and their families, he would support the renewal of assistance to the Palestinians. 

"The victims of this policy of financing terrorists are Israeli citizens, American citizens, and also young Palestinians," he added.