Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) began a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia on Wednesday with a moment of silence for Taylor Force, the 28-year-old West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran who was killed in 2016 while on a graduate-school trip to Israel.
“His death was a deranged and inhumane action,” said Wilson, who chairs the subcommittee, which is part of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The congressman also slammed the Palestinian Authority for maintaining its system of payments for terrorists and their families.
The hearing, titled “No Incentives for Terrorism: U.S. Implementation of the Taylor Force Act and Efforts to Stop ‘Pay to Slay,’” included testimony from Elliott Abrams, former deputy assistant to the U.S. president and former U.S. national security advisor; Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Michael Koplow, chief policy officer at the Israel Policy Forum.
It came nearly six years after the House of Representatives passed the Taylor Force Act, which became law in March 2018 as the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. The legislation aims to block U.S. economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying stipends through its Martyr’s Fund to terrorists and their families.
“I condemn the glorification of terrorism and antisemitism in all its forms,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, said at the hearing. He said that P.A. corruption has allowed armed groups in Jenin and Nablus to flourish, and “malign actors like Iran” to exploit tensions in Judea and Samaria.
Some 80% of Palestinians consider the P.A. corrupt, noted Phillips, citing data from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. But the Democrat said that normalization efforts between Israel and neighboring Arab countries “must prioritize having Palestinian voices at the table.”
As Washington continues to negotiate with Saudi Arabia for a normalization agreement with Israel, “we must capitalize on this opportunity to demand the P.A. take accountability for its governance, economic and security crisis, and to push both sides to take meaningful and permanent steps to negotiate a two-state solution,” Phillips said.
‘A cesspool of corruption’
Abrams, a former U.S. Iran envoy, criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for calling on Riyadh to fund the P.A. “As long as the pay-for-slay system continues, the message for Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded,” he said. Washington should support the Palestinian people but not the P.A., he said.
Schanzer told those assembled that P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has turned the Authority “into a cesspool of corruption.”
According to Schanzer, the United States should continue to apply the Taylor Force Act rigorously; encourage Palestinians to create a social-security program instead of the Martyrs’ Fund; and end support for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA. He also said that Washington should push Abbas on the issue of his succession, increase support for U.S. security coordination for Israel and the Palestinians and halt all U.S. payments to Iran, among other recommendations.
Koplow, of the Israel Policy Forum, told the subcommittee that U.S. funding of the Palestinians does not violate the Taylor Force Act “to the best of my knowledge and according to State Department certification.”
Schanzer, of FDD, criticized frequent “creative workarounds” used by the State Department’s coordinator for Palestinian affairs with respect to the Taylor Force Act, calling for an end to that office of the department.
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) said that there should be more oversight on whether the Biden administration is complying with the Taylor Force Act. “Last December in my personal capacity, I was proud to join with Taylor Force’s parents—Stuart and Robbi Force—to sue the Biden administration and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken for their blatant violations of the Taylor Force Act,” he said.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) highlighted a Washington Examiner article revealing that the State Department has given $90,000 in grants to a center that has ties to two U.S.-designated terror organizations in Gaza. “I would just submit to you that you all had one job and you failed,” Burchett said. “I would hope for better in the future.”
‘An important piece of legislation’
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) closed the hearing by invoking the memory of Elan Ganeles, the American-Israeli who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist and whose killers receive about $375 a month in salaries and more than $100 deposited monthly into their canteen in prison.
“We thank Congress for enacting the Taylor Force Act. It is an important piece of legislation that will truly help to end terrorism against both U.S. and Israeli citizens, and it must be adhered to,” said Elan’s mother, Carolyn Ganeles, in a letter that Lawler entered as testimony.
“It is unbearable to think that without the Taylor Force Act, U.S. taxpayer funds, including my taxes, would help pay Elan’s murderers,” she stated.
Lawler said that U.S. diplomats, including Blinken and U.N. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, aren’t sufficiently bringing “pay-for-slay” up in their interactions with the P.A. Their efforts to encourage other countries to raise money for the P.A. is “absurd,” Lawler said.
“One thing is fundamentally clear. The P.A. is a corrupt authority and no one, including the United States nor our allies, should be in any way funding them,” he added.