The Biden Administration has signaled its desire to resume aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a way to jumpstart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” The obstacle to peace, however, is not the absence of U.S. assistance but the PA’s incentivizing of terrorism. The bipartisan Taylor Force Act blocks U.S. funding for the PA until it changes this behavior. There is no indication that it has, making any resumption of U.S. taxpayer aid a contravention of this important law and a further hindrance to peace.
The PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy was highlighted by the 2016 murder of an American tourist in Israel by a Palestinian terrorist. The tourist, named Taylor Force – a West Point graduate, U.S. Army veteran, and son of one of the authors of this post – was in Tel Aviv on a school trip when he was stabbed to death.
Force was neither Israeli nor Jewish. Yet, the PA celebrated the killer repeatedly as a “heroic Martyr” and held a large, festive funeral where he was hailed as a national hero. The murderer’s family soon began receiving benefit payments from the PA.
The PA spends massively on these payments to terrorists and their families and treats this perverse benefits system as a sacred obligation. Codified in PA law, the system adds bonus payments for Israeli Arabs and Arab residents of Jerusalem who have Israeli IDs and therefore more freedom of movement to carry out attacks. The longer the prison sentence, the greater the payments – meaning the deadlier, the more lucrative. The PA employs some 550 people in its pay-for-slay bureaucracies and devotes over seven percent of its budget, or $350 million, to the program, compared to just $220 million for non-terrorist welfare programs.
To address this despicable system, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act (TFA) – a bill the ACLJ has long supported – cutting off U.S. aid to the PA until the pay-for-slay bureaucracy is dismantled and the laws governing it are repealed. The logic is simple: since money is fungible, aid that supplants the governance responsibilities of the PA frees up PA money to reward terrorists.
The Taylor Force Act corrected a profoundly immoral policy that had American taxpayer funds being laundered unwittingly through PA accounts to incentivize murder. The bill also offered a simple litmus test of the PA’s seriousness about making peace: If the PA cannot revoke the laws and infrastructure conferring special treatment for terrorists, then the PA itself remains an obstacle to the “peace process.”
Yet, the Biden Administration claims renewed aid for the Palestinian people will not violate TFA, which bars aid programs that “directly benefit” the PA. And news reports indicate the PA believes it can satisfy the Administration by making terrorist compensation “needs based” rather than based on the success of attacks, as it is now.
The Administration also appears set to endorse and empower the PA by giving it preemptive rewards, such as re-opening the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., the office that directly administers the pay-for-slay program.
Both of these concepts are not only deeply cynical but also violate the plain meaning and intent of the law that sought to remove the United States from complicity in the PA’s blood-soaked support for terrorism.
The TFA already exempts aid programs that Congress determined help the Palestinian people, such as water treatment projects, childhood vaccination programs, and money for East Jerusalem hospitals. And it requires a complete dismantlement of the prisoners and martyr payments bureaucracies, not the introduction of a needs-based model for them.
Indeed, heeding the TFA and demanding that the PA end pay-for-slay is a bipartisan, pro-democracy policy. To spend American taxpayers’ dollars funding an unreformed PA, against Congress’ wishes, would be neither.
If the Biden Administration genuinely wishes to support the Palestinian people, it should insist that the PA cannot be a peace partner until it stops the glorification of terrorists. The PA’s refusal to make peace with Israel, accompanied by its celebration of violence, is the real source of economic and humanitarian problems in Palestinian society, not the loss of U.S. aid.
If the Biden Administration tries to run around the TFA, it will be guilty of money laundering for terrorists. The Biden Administration should disable terror by focusing on fundamentally reforming Palestinian governance, not enabling the unrepentantly terror-sponsoring PA by circumventing the plain meaning of a bipartisan bill passed just three years ago.
Mike Pompeo served as America’s 70th Secretary of State and is currently ACLJ Senior Counsel for Global Affairs. Sander Gerber is the CEO of Hudson Bay Capital Management, a distinguished fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Stuart Force is the father of Captain Taylor Force.
Originally published in ACLJ