WASHINGTON - Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a former Middle East adviser to President Obama, will testify before the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee this week on the "Taylor Force Act," a proposed legislation that would freeze all U.S funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues to financially support the families of convicted terrorists.
Shapiro recently published an article in Foreign Policy together with Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department and Pentagon official, in which the two warned that the current language of the legislation could create a security crisis in the West Bank and harm Israel's security coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
In the article, Shapiro and Goldenberg wrote that "the legislation is well intended and we support its goals, but in its current form, enacting it would lead to a number of unintended consequences that would worsen things for Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States."
"How can the legislation be amended to address these concerns? The easiest and most meaningful fix would be to add a national security waiver. This would allow the executive branch to waive the requirement to cut off aid to the Palestinians if the administration judged that it was in the national security interest of the United States to continue the aid.
The Trump administration has already prioritized this issue and is pressing the Palestinians to reform. The legislation would give the administration an additional tool to pressure the Palestinians, but the waiver would also give it some some flexibility and not completely tie its hands."
The other witness who will testify at the hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday, will be Elliott Abrams, a former senior official in the Bush and Reagan administrations. Abrams has spoken out in support of the proposed legislation.
The Taylor Force Act is named after a U.S. citizen who was murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv last year. It was introduced before the Senate earlier this year by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and has recently been endorsed by a Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
In June, two letters by former senior Israeli security officials were published with regard to the proposed legislation. The first, released by Commanders for Israel's security, an organization representing hundreds of retired Israeli generals and spymasters, warned that that while they support the legislation’s goal – stopping the Palestinian payments to convicted terrorists – the bill’s current language could lead to the collapse of the PA and hurt the PA’s security forces. This in turn would adversely affect Israel’s security, they claim, since it works closely with its Palestinian counterpart to thwart terror attacks.
But a small group of former defense officials, headed by ex-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, put out a counter-letter expressing support for the legislation. “The Taylor Force Act is a very important bill,” Ya’alon told The Algemeiner last month.
“It is immoral to ignore the ‘Pay-for-slay’ phenomenon. It is immoral to ignore the promotion of terror by the PLO. It is immoral to ignore the encouragement by the PA of the murder of Israelis."
Issa Karaka, head of prisoner affairs for the PA, said that no such decision could ever possibly be made, since it would spell the end of the PA with the Palestinian public.
“Almost every other household among the Palestinian people is the family of a prisoner or martyr,” Karaka said. “Anybody who thinks he can execute a decision like that is badly wrong,” he added.
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