Eighteen thousand people are here in the nation’s capitol being fired up about Israel. On Tuesday they will fill the halls of Congress to lobby for important pro-Israel legislation, including legislation that would punish countries and corporations who boycott Israel. That’s all highly admirable. But why did AIPAC, which supports the Taylor Force Act, choose not to lobby for Senate and congressional passage of the act?
On March 8 The World Values Network (WVN) will be posthumously awarding the Elie Wiesel Prize – chosen and presented by Marion and Elisha Wiesel – to Yonatan Netanyahu and Taylor Force, two heroes who defended liberty and were murdered by terrorists.
Yonatan Netanyahu is arguably Israel’s most revered military hero and achieved immortality for his unequaled leadership in the Entebbe rescue mission, the most electrifying anti-terrorist battle in modern history. Taylor Force was a West Point graduate and US Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was murdered in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist on March 8, 2016. The award being presented by the Wiesel family at the Plaza hotel at the WVN gala will occur two years to the day since his murder and will be received by Robbi and Stuart Force, his parents.
As it stands, Congress is considering legislation, the Taylor Force Act, to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority for paying large stipends to individuals who commit acts of terrorism, including the murderer of Taylor Force, and to the families of deceased terrorists.
Force was on a study trip with his fellow MBA students from Vanderbilt University when he was stabbed along with 11 other people. This horrific crime was celebrated by the Palestinians, who offer incentives to murder Jews and rewards to those who are imprisoned or “martyred.” Under this “pay to slay” policy the PA, which has repeatedly pledged to end terrorism, provides generous monthly stipends to terrorists and their families for attacks against Israelis.
Men who have served at least five years in Israeli jails, and women who served at least two, are entitled to these “salaries” for life. The more heinous the crime, the more money a prisoner receives. Terrorists receive health benefits and priority for employment after they are released from jail. Palestinians can earn more money by attacking Jews and going to jail than they can working most jobs in the West Bank.
The PA, which pleads poverty and begs for international aid, spends roughly $140 million a year for payments to terrorists. That money is coming out of the pockets of Americans, whose tax dollars are ostensibly used for the welfare of the Palestinian people. Given the fungibility of money, however, any US funding allows the PA to divert other resources to the pay-to-slay program, which now consumes about 7% of the PA budget.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the PA for this policy and told PA President Mahmoud Abbas directly that it had to stop. Abbas thumbed his nose at the president, as well as at the Europeans who also demanded a halt to the policy, and declared his determination to not only continue to incentivize murder, but to increase the amount paid to terrorists.
Trump subsequently decided to withhold aid from the Palestinians. Congress has also become fed up with seeing taxpayer money go to support terrorism. The Senate is now poised to pass bipartisan legislation, the Taylor Force Act, to cut the roughly $400 million in US assistance to the PA if the payments continue. It is essential that Congress quickly pass this law, named in honor of the murdered American soldier, and send a message to Palestinian officials that America will no longer stand by silently while they pay their people to attack innocent men, women and children, Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and non-Israelis.
It is tragic that it took the murder of an American citizen to prompt Congress to finally act. Sadly, Taylor was not the first American to be killed by Palestinian terrorists. Since Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords in September 1993, and pledged to end violence, at least 54 Americans have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
I wish that we did not have to give a posthumous award. Taylor Force should be alive today pursuing a career in business and continuing to contribute to the welfare of the United States, as he did during his military service. It is with a heavy heart that we will present the Elie Wiesel award to Taylor’s parents. No parent should have to bury their child and no child should die at the hands of terrorists.
There is a direct connection between Taylor Force and the other recipient of the Elie Wiesel prize at our gala, Yonatan Netanyahu, who was murdered 41 years ago in Entebbe. Both men fought for democracy and liberty. And both had their lives cut short by terrorists.
Most Americans don’t know that Yonatan Netanyahu was born in New York City on March 13, 1946, the son of Benzion and Cela, who had moved to the US to work for the New Zionist Organization. I knew Benzion Netanyahu. I hosted him in Oxford and London over a few days and used to visit him in his home in Jerusalem. He was a great man and a scholar, a man of ferocious Jewish pride who conveyed that pride to his three sons.
After Israel’s independence, the Netanyahus returned to Israel where Yonatan’s brothers Benjamin and Iddo were born.
Yonatan’s moving letters were published posthumously. In one letter he writes to his parents:
“In another week I’ll be 23. On me, on us, the young men of Israel, rests the duty of keeping our country safe. This is a heavy responsibility, which matures us early... I do not regret what I have done and what I’m about to do. I’m convinced that what I am doing is right. I believe in myself, in my country and in my future.”
Not long after, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. That devastating war was won thanks to the bravery, guile and indomitable spirit of the members of the Israel Defense Forces (a US airlift, ordered by president Richard Nixon, was also vital).
One of the fighters who distinguished himself during the fighting was Yonatan, who commanded an elite Sayeret Matkal force that helped protect citizens in northern Israel following Syria’s attack on the Golan Heights. During the war, he also rescued a soldier who was wounded behind Syrian lines. He was later awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service, Israel’s third highest military decoration.
He had written to his brother Benjamin, the current prime minister of Israel, a few weeks after the Arab invasion:
“We’re preparing for war, and it’s hard to know what to expect. What I’m positive of is that there will be a next round, and others after that. But I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end. As I don’t intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish state in the twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode in thousands of years of wandering, I intend to hold on here with all my might.”
On June 27, 1976, an Air France plane flying from Tel Aviv to Paris with 248 passengers aboard was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists and diverted to Entebbe. Israeli and other Jewish passengers were separated from the rest and 148 hostages were released. The hijackers held 94 passengers hostage, along with the 12-member Air France crew, who heroically insisted on staying with the remaining passengers, and threatened to kill them if a group of prisoners was not released from Israeli and other prisons.
Israel decided to mount a seemingly impossible rescue mission. Israeli transport planes carrying approximately 100 commandos would have to fly more than 4,000 km., get past Ugandan soldiers, surprise the terrorists and free the hostages. Yonatan Netanyahu was chosen to lead the team that would assault the terminal where the hostages were being held.
On July 4, the Israelis landed at the airport in Entebbe. It took just 53 minutes to carry out the entire operation. All the hijackers, four hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and 102 hostages were rescued. There was only one Israeli fatality – Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed by a sniper. The raid was posthumously renamed Operation Yonatan.
Defense minister Shimon Peres eulogized Netanyahu during his funeral at Mount Herzl cemetery on July 6, 1976, saying “a bullet had torn the young heart of one of Israel’s finest sons, one of its most courageous warriors, one of its most promising commanders – the magnificent Yonatan Netanyahu.”
We are proud to honor Yonatan and Taylor Force with the Elie Wiesel Award and we are eternally grateful to Marion and Elisha Wiesel for choosing Yonatan and Taylor and personally presenting the award on March 8 in New York. But the greatest homage to Taylor Force will come with the passage of he Taylor Force Act.
AIPAC, are you listening? The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom
The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 31 books including his most recent,
The Israel Warrior. For tickets The Champions of Jewish Values Awards Gala on March 8, go to www.thisworldgala.com.