A Senate committee will hold its first hearing next week on the Taylor Force Act, the proposed legislation that would cut all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops making payments to convicted terrorists and their families.
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday. Right now, the only person set to speak is Elliott Abrams, who was a senior Middle East adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Abrams has spoken out in support of the legislation. The Democratic minority in the committee is expected to add another witness who will present the complications arising from the bill.
In recent weeks, two letters by former senior Israeli security officials have been published with regard to the proposed legislation. The first was released by Commanders for Israel’s Security, an organization representing hundreds of retired Israeli generals and spymasters.
They warned 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.”
The Taylor Force Act was reintroduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) in March, and is named after a U.S. citizen and army veteran who was killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv last year.
“Americans want to help the Palestinians, but not if that money ends up supporting terrorism,” Graham said in March.“If this comes to the floor, it will pass with support from both parties, and then the bill will be signed by the president,” he added. “I’ve spoken to Democratic colleagues – it’s a matter of time before they endorse.”
The Trump administration has been trying to solve the issue at the heart of this bill through direct negotiations with the PA in recent weeks, but so far no agreements have been reached.
Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the PA had changed its policy of paying families of convicted terrorists. But those claims were soon contradicted by both the Israeli government and the PA in Ramallah.
“We are not aware of any change in the PA’s policy, and as far as we know they are still paying funds to terrorists’ families,” a senior Israeli official said, adding that the PA “continues to praise, incite and encourage terror through financial support.”
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.
Tillerson subsequently walked back his earlier statement, saying 24 hours later that the U.S. was in the midst of an "active discussion" with the PA on the matter.