A revised version of the Taylor Force Act, a bill that calls on the U.S. government to cease funding to a Palestinian Authority that continues to pay salaries to terrorists and their families, could be unveiled as early as Thursday, according to four sources with knowledge of the legislative process surrounding the bill. The sources, which are politically affiliated with both parties, told Haaretz on Wednesday that the bill is being finalized.
A revised version of the bill will make the distinction between U.S. financial support that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority, and U.S. financial support that benefits civil society, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, and certain humanitarian projects. The Trump administration will have some flexibility on defining what funds exactly are "directly benefitting the PA," something that would give it leverage in the event that peace talks are resumed.
The Taylor Force Act is named after a U.S. citizen who was murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv in March 2016, and was first proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) earlier this year. The bill gained strong Republican support immediately after it was presented, but in order to create bi-partisan support for it, certain changes had to be made in its language, after former senior American officials and hundreds of retired Israeli generals expressed support for the bill's purpose, however voiced concern that without some changes in the bill's language, it might lead to an economic and humanitarian crisis in the PA, something which would also hurt Israel's security.
Two weeks ago, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the legislation during which two prominent former officials who have worked on the Israeli-Palestinian issue expressed support for the legislation, but called on the Senate to make some changes in it. Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration official, said that an exemption should be made for hospitals and some humanitarian projects, while Dan Shapiro, who was ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, suggested the investment of some of the money earmarked for the PA could go instead to independent civilian and technology projects in the West Bank.
It is likely that these suggestions will form some part of the bill's revision. One source involved in the process told Haaretz that it could also contain a mechanism which would require the PA not only to halt the controversial payments, but to actively repeal the existing laws regarding those payments. The bill may also include a "disclosure provision," which means the State Department would have to report on the PA's budget in an unclassified report every year.
Haaretz reported two weeks ago that a revised version of the bill, assuming it includes some differentiation between funding that goes directly to the PA and funding for other purposes, will likely pass once a compromise is reached. It's still unclear when a vote on the revised version will take place, but the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said last month that he wants to pass a "Taylor Force-like bill" during the summer session.
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