United States Capitol building in Washington, DC..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington’s largest Israel advocacy organization are withholding support for a Senate bill that would defund the PA over its “martyr” compensation scheme, which provides monthly stipends to the families of convicted murderers and terrorists in Israel.
The Taylor Force Act – named after a former US Army officer murdered by a Palestinian assailant in Israel last year – would require the State Department to cut funds to the Palestinian Authority should it fail to end the program. After the story was published, sources sources clarified that "Israel is quiet on Taylor Force Act, while loudly supporting its goals forcing the PA to halt its payments to terrorists and their families."
Israel does not comment on specific legislation in Congress, so the Prime Minister’s Office had no response to the matter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, first introduced the bill last year and reintroduced it in the current congressional session.
Many Republicans support the legislation, but Democrats have approached it with skepticism, fearing its good intentions may undermine the PA and its politically unstable president, Mahmoud Abbas.
And the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will not endorse the bill unless it earns bipartisan support.
“We strongly support the legislation’s goal to end these abhorrent payments, and we are committed to work with Congress to build the bipartisan support necessary for a bill to pass,” an AIPAC official told The Jerusalem Post
Asked this week if support for the bill had changed, the official said it had not and that the group’s position remains the same.
The Trump administration has also declined to endorse the bill. Sources familiar with the administration’s thinking told the Post
they do not expect that position to change anytime soon.
US President Donald Trump raised concerns over the compensation scheme with Abbas at the White House earlier this month. But the president’s team fears pushing the PA too hard at a time when Trump wants to reboot direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
While both parties in Washington seem to support the bill in principle, the language of this particular legislation seems to be of concern, as it leaves little room for the State Department to make exceptions to an aid cut. The bill would set up a confrontation between Abbas and Trump early in their relationship: Abbas would be forced to act one way or another, either conforming to Washington’s politically challenging request or defying it.
Asked if support for the bill had grown in recent weeks or whether the effort had stalled, a senior aide to Graham declined to outline any measurable change.
“Sen. Graham would like to see the Taylor Force Act passed into law as soon as possible,” the aide said, noting that Graham believes Trump would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completely supports efforts to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for the outrage of paying murderers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes said.
Netanyahu expressed this sentiment to Graham when he was in Washington in February, sources told the Post
In a New York Times op-ed, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said, “The Palestinian Authority must also stop the most insidious form of encouragement to violence: payments to convicted terrorists and their families.”
Since last July, Israel has deducted the sum the PA pays to terrorists and their families from its monthly transfer of tax fees to the Fatah-led government in the West Bank. It took that measure after two Palestinian terrorist attacks last summer claimed the lives of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, and Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, 48, a father of 10 children.
According to PA law, 7% of its budget goes to pay Palestinian terrorists and their families.
That amounts to about NIS 1.1 billion, or $300 million, annually.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report