OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Federal court allows action to enforce the Taylor Force Act

The effect of violating the law is odiously financing and promoting the murder of innocent Americans, Israelis and others.

Former U.S. serviceman Taylor Force, who was stabbed and killed in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel. Source: Facebook.
Former U.S. serviceman Taylor Force, who was stabbed and killed in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel. Source: Facebook.
Leonard Grunstein
Leonard Grunstein is co-author of the book Because It’s Just and Right: The Untold Back-Story of the U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Stuart and Robbi Force (the parents of Taylor Force), and Sarri Singer (as plaintiffs) filed an action in December 2022 against U.S. President Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken (as defendants) seeking to enforce the Taylor Force Act (22 USC 2378c-1).

The act was named in memory of Taylor Force, 28, a U.S. military veteran who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in 2016 while on visiting Israel as a graduate student. The Palestinian Authority awarded the terrorist’s family a stipend for his homicidal efforts, under its “pay for slay” program. Singer is an American survivor of a suicide bombing by a Palestinian terrorist of a Jerusalem bus that killed 17 people. The P.A. also makes payments to that terrorist’s family.

The act requires cutting of funding available for assistance for the West Bank and Gaza (outside of three very limited humanitarian exceptions not here at issue) directly benefiting the P.A., as long as it continues the despicable “pay for slay” system. Pursuant to the act, the Trump administration did, in fact, cut aid payments.

Shockingly, the Biden administration restored and even increased funding, in flagrant violation of the act. Under the act, such funding is illegal unless the secretary of state certifies in writing to the appropriate congressional committees that, among other things, the P.A., PLO and any successor or affiliated organizations are taking credible steps to end acts of violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens; have terminated terror payments; and have revoked or invalidated any law or decree providing for the same. However, the secretary was unable so to certify because it would have been flatly untrue.

The Biden administration responded to the action by moving to dismiss the complaint—arguing, among other things, that plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case. While the court dismissed a part of the complaint, it preserved the basic claim, ruling:

(1) Defendants plausibly violated statutory authority; and

(2) Plaintiffs had standing to challenge those alleged violations because they faced an increased risk of harm in traveling to Israel-harm that was “reasonably tied to Defendants and redressable by the relief sought.”

Plaintiffs obtained leave of the court for expedited and limited discovery. The documentary evidence obtained not only showed non-compliance with the Taylor Force Act; it also implicated a likely violation of the US anti-terrorism law (18 USC 2339B).

Then, Oct. 7 occurred, when Hamas committed murders, rapes, kidnappings and atrocities against Americans, Israelis and others, including reportedly murdering 45 Americans and kidnapping 12 Americans (with eight still being held hostage in Gaza, of which only five are said to be alive). Once again, the P.A. rewarded the perpetrators with “pay for slay” payments.

In light of the foregoing, plaintiffs sought and were granted leave to amend their complaint in March. The amended complaint references the terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 and added claims dealing with payments to UNRWA, which had employees who participated in the massacre, and the diversion of funding to Hamas, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The Biden administration again moved to dismiss. The court denied the motion on June 28.

Despite it all, the Biden administration continues brazenly to flout the Taylor Force Act, even announcing additional funding to the P.A., which is prohibited under this act.

Astoundingly, the amended complaint mentions that the State Department has acknowledged in a non-public report to Congress that the P.A. had not ended the “pay for slay” program and that it could not therefore certify compliance with the act. Nevertheless, this did not result in a suspension of further aid payments, as required.

It is also important to note that the program is not a matter of executive fiat; it is embodied in P.A. law—an egregious violation of the Oslo Accords, which explicitly provide that “both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other … and shall take legal measures against offenders.”

In essence, not only is the P.A. not preventing these horrendous acts, it is encouraging, rewarding and honoring murderers. In this regard, limitations on aid and other restrictions are also triggered under the Anti-Terrorism Law-PLO (22 USC 5201) and Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (120 Stat. 3318) by a P.A. breach under the Oslo Accords.

The disdain for the law shown by U.S. government officials, seemingly without consequence, should be inconceivable; yet apparently, it is not. Under Article I of the Constitution, there is a separation of powers. The power of the purse was reserved to Congress.

The remedy for those in Government who may disagree with the law is to seek to change it, not to undermine or evade compliance with the law. It is unacceptable for those in the executive branch unilaterally to disregard the sacred responsibility of enforcing or complying because they think they know better and disagree with the law or the policies it promotes. This should be an issue of profound concern to everyone, no matter the party or affiliation.

Moreover, the effect of violating the law is odiously financing and promoting the murder of innocent Americans, Israelis and others. A policy of appeasement and virtuous-sounding pronouncements about a desire to promote peace has proven to be ineffective in practice. By funding evil, peace is not being achieved; it only emboldens the wrongdoers. Those acting to evade the law are, in essence, complicit in enabling despicable terrorist actions, including of Hamas and the terrorism rewarded by the P.A.

It’s time for Congress to employ its power of the purse to defund those who are violating or failing to enforce the law. Consideration should also be given to establishing an independent counsel position to enforce these laws.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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