The gutting of the Taylor Force Act

 

By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org

President Donald Trump (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (center) in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. Credit: White House/Shealah Craighead.

The Taylor Force Act started out as a powerful and long-overdue tool for pressuring the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop paying terrorists. But the legislation has been diluted, weakened and compromised in so many ways that it is now a pale shadow of its former self. The Taylor Force Act has been gutted.

Known in the Senate as S. 1697, the Taylor Force Act is named after a young Vanderbilt University student—and U.S. Army veteran—who was murdered by a Palestinian Arab knife-wielding terrorist in Jaffa in 2016. The lead Senate sponsor is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) initiated the House of Representatives version, H.R. 1164.

The idea behind the bill was to reduce U.S. aid to the Palestinians in proportion to the amount that the PA pays to terrorists.

Thanks to the good work of Israeli Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, we know that the PA has a precise and sophisticated system of providing financial incentives to murderers of Jews.

An Arab who is imprisoned for attacking (but not killing) Jews receives a monthly salary of $400 from the PA. The amount goes up according to the length of the terrorist’s prison sentence. An Arab who succeeds in killing a Jew receives a monthly salary of $3,400.

The financial rewards don’t stop there. After he completes his sentence, a terrorist receives a minimum additional grant of $1,500. The size of the grant increases according to the length of his sentence. A murderer receives $25,000.

Their families are rewarded, too. The family of an unmarried terrorist who is killed receives $100 monthly. The widow of a terrorist receives $250 each month, for life.

Stopping such payments is obviously a necessity. And the U.S. has the leverage to stop them—the hundreds of millions of dollars that America provides to the Palestinians each year. The original Taylor Force Act would have linked the two. But as the bill began working its way through the legislative process in recent months, the appeasers jumped in.

There are officials in the State Department and certain congressional offices who are deeply pro-Palestinian. They started pushing for all sorts of exceptions and loopholes. Unfortunately, some congressional staffers and Jewish leaders who support the bill got weak in the knees. They decided they had to accept compromises in order to get more votes for the bill.

So they added language saying that U.S. funding for various Palestinian health and sanitation programs would not be affected. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that such exemptions would “basically gut the bill” and render the legislation “useless” because it would leave too few areas of funding for the U.S. to exercise leverage. He was right.

And it got worse. Next they added a one-year delay before the provisions of the bill go into effect. That gives the PA a year in which to come up with a phony new arrangement by which the payments are given to terrorists from some “private” group instead of the PA itself.

Then they stipulated that the money which is withheld must be put into a “Palestinian Authority Accountability Fund,” which can then be given to the Palestinians if the State Department certifies that the PA is taking steps against terrorism.

We all know that for the past 24 years, the State Department has repeatedly “certified” that the PA was keeping its obligations in the Oslo Accords—even though that certification was a total lie. No matter how blatantly the PA violated the accords, the State Department always found some excuse to declare it to be “in compliance,” so that U.S. money would keep flowing. There is every reason to believe that the State Department will do so again.

Stephen M. Flatow

Sometimes, in politics, you have to compromise. I get that and have done it myself when advancing other terror victim legislation. Sometimes a flawed bill is better than no bill at all. But not always. Sometimes a bill is so deeply flawed that it is actually worse than no bill—because it will prevent any other action from being taken on the issue. This is one such bill.

If the Taylor Force Act passes in its current form, there will be no further congressional action on the issue for the foreseeable future. And we will be stuck with legislation that pretends to address the issue of paying terrorists, but really does nothing of the sort. That would deal a grievous blow to the memory of Taylor Force and the many other American victims of Palestinian terrorism.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He may be contacted at smflatow@gmail.com.

Posted on December 4, 2017 and filed under Opinion, Israel, U.S..