WASHINGTON - A group of Republican Senators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC,) proposed to cut off all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority in new legislation presented on Tuesday. The bill is called the "Taylor Force Act," after an American citizen who was murdered in a terror attack in Israel in March 2016.
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The legislation isn't aimed at crippling the Palestinian Authority, Graham explained in a press conference on Capitol Hill, where he was joined by Force's parents, who are residents of his home state. 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.
Graham said he believes the bill would soon receive support from some Democratic Senators as well. "If this comes to the floor, it will pass with support from both parties, and then the bill will be signed by the President. I've spoken to Democratic colleagues - it's a matter of time before they endorse."
In reply to a question from Haaretz about the position of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israeli lobby, to the proposed legislation, Graham said that AIPAC wants to see some modifications to his bill and that his office was discussing the issue with the lobby group. In the past, Israeli officials, especially from the military and the security establishment, warned U.S. lawmakers against any cuts to American funding of the Palestinian Authority, since the Israeli security agencies rely on cooperation with their Palestinian counterparts to combat terrorism in the West Bank.
Graham said that he was open to discussing changes to his bill with AIPAC, but that he and his colleagues - including Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) - will not budge on the main principle of the bill, "that American funding should not go to institutional support for terrorism." Graham said that "this is an opportunity for our friends in AIPAC to join the effort," and mentioned that the legislation was brought up during the meeting last month between U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO,) who supports the legislation and was present at the press conference, told Haaretz that "this is not about causing the Palestinian Authority to collapse - this is about causing them to change their ways. This outrageous support of terrorism has to stop. I hope they see the message we are sending here and stop what they're doing. It's important the American taxpayer money won't be used for purposes that most Americans find absolutely appalling. The bill states that once they change the policy, the money will be sent again."