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The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee Just Took a Big Step to Curb Palestinian Terrorism

By passing a good version of the Taylor Force Act, we can stop the Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay program and protect American and Israeli interests

Michael Koplow
August 03, 2017
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The version of the Taylor Force bill that was approved by the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee earlier today and will soon proceed to the Senate floor for a full vote is a better iteration of the bill than the original version introduced earlier this year. Smartly resisting needlessly harsh and potentially counter-productive strictures advocated by some, the bill unequivocally establishes two important points.

The first is that there is a need to punish the Palestinian Authority for its detestable practice of paying bonuses to terrorists and their families for killing and maiming Israelis. The second is that it is imperative to do so while advancing American and Israeli interests.

The original language in the Taylor Force Act would have eliminated every dollar of American economic aid that flows directly to the West Bank and Gaza should the Palestinian Authority continue to pay stipends to reward terrorism. But eliminating all of the aid in one stroke would not have had the bill’s intended effect. Rather than get the PA to stop paying terrorists, it would cause a humanitarian and economic crisis that punishes ordinary Palestinians and would likely push them toward even more extreme groups such as Hamas. It for this reason that the Israeli government takes a different position, only last month introducing Knesset legislation to reduce the tax revenues that it transfers to the PA by the same amount that the PA pays to terrorists and their families, as opposed to cutting all aid entirely.

Thankfully, the version of the act approved by the committee was more nuanced than what was originally introduced. The reduction in funds now only applies to aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority rather than taking a sledgehammer to all of it. Furthermore, the committee adopted an amendment proposed by Senator Tim Kaine (D., VA) which would attach a one-year escrow to the bill, keeping aid designated for the Palestinian Authority in a bond for a year until it has been proven that it no longer pays terrorists and their families. Another amendment will require the State Department to report to Congress every six months with an update on the PA’s conduct.

The bill was passed out of committee with sufficient bipartisan consensus by a vote of 17-4, and will hopefully now be passed by the full Senate. When it does, it will send an important message to the PA that terrorism is unacceptable, but will smartly do so in a way that safeguards American interests and Israeli security. This is a case where taking the time to get the bill right produced a piece of legislation that is better than the original iteration, and it is one that is worthy of broad-based support.

Michael Koplow is the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum