Taylor Force Act Now Almost Certain to Start in 2018, Cutting U.S. Funds to Palestinian Authority

Bill sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham attaches legislation to Foreign Operations budget, to ensure bill wouldn't lose out because of tight Senate schedule

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaking with reporters in Washington on September 6, 2017.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaking with reporters in Washington on September 6, 2017. Aaron P. Bernstein/AFP

The Taylor Force Act was attached to the 2018 Foreign Operations budget in the Senate on Thursday, meaning the legislation is almost certainly assured of being enforced in the United States from next year.

The legislation is intended to cut U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority while it continues to financially support convicted terrorists and their families.

The legislation was already approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support in August.

However, original sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) feared that because of the tight schedule facing the Senate over coming weeks, the legislation would not reach a vote before the entire Senate, ahead of the deadline for legislation to take effect in the next fiscal year.

Graham decided on Thursday to attach the legislation to the foreign operations budget, which was approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The amendment approved by the committee makes a clear distinction between American funding that benefits the PA directly, which will be suspended, and funding that goes to civilian institutions such as hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which will continue to receive support.

A similar distinction was added to the original legislation after experts who served under both the Bush and Obama administrations recommended such an addition.

The Taylor Force Act is named for the Vanderbilt University graduate student and former U.S. Army officer stabbed to death in Jaffa by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016. It would make future U.S. assistance that directly benefits the PA contingent on it ending its current policies concerning payments to convicted terrorists and families of terrorists.

When introducing the act in February, Graham explained that it was not meant to punish the Palestinians. “Americans want to help the Palestinians, but not if that money ends up supporting terrorism,” Graham said. He added that if the PA 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.

The Palestinians have criticized the act. The Palestinian envoy in Washington, Husam Zomlot, warned in August that the legislation will harm the peace process with Israel

Zomlot defended the PA's practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families, and said the act stands in the way of Ramallah's efforts "to provide for the security and well-being of its people" who live under Israeli occupation.