WASHINGTON – Three prominent Republican senators wrote to President Donald Trump on Tuesday asking him to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop paying salaries to families of convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
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Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas urged Trump to “raise this matter with President Abbas during his visit” and to “make clear to him that this practice must end.”
According to the senators, “the Palestinian Authority spends around $300 million a year – about eight percent of its budget – paying salaries and benefits to convicted terrorists and their families, including to those who have killed Americans, such as U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force. Far from being an informal practice, these payments are codified in Palestinian Authority law.”
They said “the United States cannot treat the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace, or take seriously President Abbas’ claimed desire for peace, so long as the PA is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year funding and incentivizing terror.”
They added, however, that they generally support Trump’s attempts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Graham proposed legislation two months ago to stop all U.S. funding for the PA if Ramallah does not change its policy of paying terrorists and their families.
The senators’ letter is in line with a campaign launched last month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has posted videos and statements on Facebook and Twitter condemning Abbas for this practice and calling on the PA to end it. Netanyahu has also raised the issue in a number of speeches.
For Abbas, the demand comes amid a hunger strike announced two weeks ago by thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, led by Marwan Barghouti, the most prominent Palestinian in Israeli prisons. Any compromise by Abbas on payments to these prisoners could lead to major political difficulties and possibly violence.