Exclusive: Trump administration backs principles of Taylor Force Act

Committee vote on the bill planned by August 11. AIPAC aims for bipartisan support for bill to cut PA funding if it doesn't stop paying terrorists and their families.

July 19, 2017 21:43
3 minute read.
Trump speaks at the White House

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the White House. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump supports the “high-level goals” of the Taylor Force Act and is “closely monitoring” developments with the legislation, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The Post
can further confirm that the bill, which would compel the State Department to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its program of compensating terrorists and the families of slain terrorists, will face a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote before the chamber recesses on August 11.

Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, met with committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) on Tuesday to receive an update on the legislation and to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“While the administration agrees with the high-level goals of the Taylor Force Act, it is currently in Congress’s hands and we will continue to closely monitor the specifics of the legislation,” an administration official said.

The bill, authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), takes its name from a US Army veteran whom a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death at Jaffa Port last year.

Taylor Force, 29, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who went on a stabbing rampage in Jaffa on March 8, 2016 (Facebook)

Senators from both parties have expressed support for the basic premise of the legislation, and the committee’s highest-ranking Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, said that Congress will pass it into law in one form or another. But a committee hearing on the bill last week revealed disagreements among Republican lawmakers over some of its strongest language, which presents the PA with an ultimatum that its leadership claims would cause their authority to collapse.

Corker has since held talks with Graham’s office over some of these provisions. The chairman’s team would not detail which parts of the bill are under negotiation.

But “we are engaged in very productive discussions, and plan to hold a committee vote on the Taylor Force Act this work period,” a senior aide to Corker told the Post.

The aide acknowledged that Greenblatt is a part of those discussions and suggested the president's adviser has offered White House guidance on the pending legislation.

"Senator Corker had a very productive meeting with Mr. Greenblatt yesterday, during which they discussed the best path forward" on the bill, the aide said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Trump administration characterize the PA program as an immoral scheme and an impediment to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Palestinian leaders claim that many of the assailants benefiting from the program have been imprisoned by Israel on illegitimate, political charges.

A senior Democratic Senate aide said that Democrats are not privy to Corker’s negotiation with Graham, complicating efforts by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to forge a bipartisan consensus around the legislation. But an AIPAC representative says his organization is "encouraged" by recent progress on the Hill and claims there is an effort to reach across the aisle.

"For many years, AIPAC has pressed to end payments to terrorists and their families," Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for AIPAC, told the Post. "We are encouraged by the efforts in Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement that will ensure passage of the Taylor Force legislation."

Thus far, only one Democrat – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – has publicly expressed support. Other Democrats have voiced concern that the legislation may undermine its noble goals if it forces Israel and the PA into a security crisis.

Several retired Israeli generals and national security officials believe this is a real concern. “If enacted, this legislation might undermine PA stability; expand the circle of frustration and hostility; erode the security coordination; and thus hurt Israeli security,” reads a letter from dozens of Israeli security professionals, organized last month by a group called the Commanders for Israel’s Security. The letter suggests edits to the legislation, and a representative of the group notes their concerns were expressed over the bill's original draft.

Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer underscored his government’s support for the legislation this week. “I can assure you that Israel is not the slightest bit concerned that the Taylor Force Act will pass. Israel would be concerned if the Taylor Force Act didn’t pass,” he told a major religious and political action group, Christians United for Israel, as it gathered in Washington for its annual summit.

CUFI’s leadership said it will lobby for the bill in the coming days.

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