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The Biden administration is breaking the law by restoring Palestinian aid

The resumption of aid to the Palestinians, including to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, is shameful. Congress should not let it happen.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Aug. 9, 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Aug. 9, 2019. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.
Mark Goldfeder
Mark Goldfeder

The Biden administration has quietly notified Congress that it intends to distribute $125 million in aid to the Palestinians, reportedly to “regain their ‘trust and goodwill’ after the Trump-era cuts.” The assistance package is set to take effect on April 10.

That decision is shameful, illegal and immoral, and Congress should not let it happen.

It is shameful to blame the Palestinians’ loss of aid on former President Donald Trump. It was Congress, not Trump, who set the conditions for Palestinian aid. And it was the Palestinians, not Trump, that violated those terms with impunity. Hiding behind fake partisan politics to call what happened “Trump-era cuts” is nothing more than revisionist history.

It is illegal for the Biden administration to restore that aid because every year since 2014 the United States has made clear in annual appropriation legislation—adopted by a massive bipartisan majority each time—that if the Palestinian Authority were to initiate an investigation by the International Criminal Court, and/or as long as they were actively supporting such an investigation, America would cut its funding. This requirement was reaffirmed again very recently, by a strong bipartisan majority, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Despite these clear and repeated warnings, the P.A. did initiate and does continue to openly and officially support just such an investigation. By law, it must be held to account for the willful disrespect for and disregard of American laws, values and interests. Anything else reflects the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Finally, restoring aid is immoral because the Biden administration knows exactly what the P.A. does with its international aid money. In a recent non-public report to Congress, the administration confirmed that the P.A. has continued to use that money to pay stipends through its official Martyr’s Fund to murderous terrorists and their families. The P.A. spent at least $151 million in 2019 on its “pay-for-slay” program and at least $155 million in 2020. The fact that this program is codified in P.A. law—including that deadlier attacks get more money which incentivizes bloodshed—is beyond sickening.

Congress was rightfully sickened and in 2018 passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan law called the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits the U.S. government from resuming Palestinian aid until these payments to terrorists are stopped. Taylor Force was a U.S. Military Academy graduate and veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, he went on a graduate school trip to Tel Aviv, where he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist.

The P.A. labeled his killer a “heroic martyr,” and the murderer’s family began to receive their regular payments alongside all the other glorified killers. It is a disgrace to Taylor Force’s memory—and a grave disrespect to the memories of all those who have been killed—to try to curry favor with a governmental authority that would and actually does, certifiably and admittedly, pay to have us murdered.

The Biden administration will likely try to skirt the law by supplying the aid to civic groups instead of the P.A. directly, but that is not an answer for two reasons.

First, the law prohibits any funding that directly benefits the P.A., and there is no question that this is the intention. Second, according to a recent report from the US. Government Accountability Office, between 2015 and 2019 the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is the agency in charge of distributing this funding, did not ensure that the sub-awards from its allocations were not going to terrorists.

That is why more than a dozen organizations and two-dozen-plus members of Congress sent letters to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, urging them not to let the American people down by rewarding those who disrespect our terms and devalue our very lives.

It is not too late to change course. Congress should make clear that the Palestinians need to regain our trust and goodwill before we send them financial support. At the very least, we must be absolutely sure that they will not use that very aid to glorify and pay the murderer of an innocent American soldier.

Dr. Mark Goldfeder is the director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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