The Biden administration is determined to provide aid to the Palestinians in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Taylor Force Act, which bars U.S. aid from going to the Palestinian Authority so long as it continues its pay-to-slay policy. P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said he will not end the payments to terrorists and, in recent months, has tried to restructure the means of payments in hopes President Joe Biden will ignore the deception.
Regardless, the Palestinians don’t need the money and should not be given any U.S. taxpayer dollars. Then why should the United States even contemplate aid to the Palestinians? One reason is economic and humanitarian, and the other is political. The former has some justification, but the latter does not.
Consider that the Biden administration has now promised the Palestinians $140 million in U.S. taxpayer money. In 2020, the P.A. spent nearly $181 million on pay-to-slay, which could instead replace the $15 million in coronavirus assistance, $75 million in assistance for infrastructure, health and civil society groups, $40 million for law enforcement and security, and $10 million for peacebuilding programs the administration intends to dole out.
If the P.A. simply stopped subsidizing terror, it would have more than enough money to pay for the programs President Joe Biden has decided the American people should underwrite. Furthermore, money is fungible, so every U.S. dollar frees up Palestinian funds to prop up the corrupt Abbas regime, incite terror and produce propaganda in their media and schools that undermines peace. Worse, the P.A. still has all that cash to pay terrorists in jail and the families of “martyrs.”
“Supporting an enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a core U.S. national security objective,” the State Department said in the notification of its aid plan. “As an essential part of this effort, U.S. government assistance seeks to build professional and accountable security and criminal justice institutions that maintain security and stability in the West Bank, uphold the rule of law, contribute directly to regional security, and protect the population.”
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken could be as effective in promoting a solution to the conflict if he threw the money on a bonfire.
The Palestinians have never shown any gratitude for U.S. assistance and have never responded to American largesse by cooperating with peace initiatives. They don’t hide their contempt at the idea their support can be bought and have for decades undermined U.S. interests in the region.
Moreover, we don’t need Palestinians’ love; they need our support if they want to have any hope of achieving independence. Their antics at the United Nations and International Criminal Court (ICC), and their courting of the Europeans, have gotten them nowhere. The road to freedom goes through Jerusalem and only Washington has any influence with the Israeli government.
Incidentally, Biden may also be violating another law. The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (pp. 1256-57), passed under the Obama administration, prohibits U.S. aid if the P.A. goes to the ICC, as it has, to ask for an investigation of Israelis.
The State Department also announced the resumption of support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The department said the contribution of $150 million to the agency was needed for UNRWA services. It also justified the reversal of former President Donald Trump’s policy by stating that “the United States needs to be at the table to ensure that the reforms advance efficiencies and are in accord with our interests and values.”
This is the same misguided justification for the United States rejoining the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Also, contradicting the Biden administration’s claim that funding UNRWA aligns with the interests of our allies, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, “Israel’s position is that the organization in its current form perpetuates the conflict and does not contribute to its resolution.”
Blinken said U.S. aid is conditional on anti-Israel and anti-Jewish education reform, referencing educational materials that erase Israel from maps and praise terrorism and martyrdom. If true, then it’s not likely UNRWA will see a dollar in the foreseeable future.
UNRWA has failed to deliver on similar promises in the past. In fact, UNRWA admitted in January that educational material distributed to schools in the West Bank and Gaza contains “inappropriate” content glorifying Palestinian terrorists and encouraging violence.
Ironically, shortly after the U.S. announcement, the European Parliament condemned the organization for teaching hate and violence in P.A. schools. A few months earlier, Norway went further and voted to cut financial assistance to UNRWA because of the anti-Semitic and violent content of its educational materials.
Apparently, the Arabists are once again running amok in Foggy Bottom; otherwise, it’s difficult to understand their logic given that the United States has historically been the largest donor to UNRWA and had little, if any, influence. The organization, perhaps more than any other, has impeded peace by turning what should be a small problem of dealing with some 30,000 true refugees from 1948 into an impossible one whereby Israel is expected to “repatriate” more than 5 million Palestinians who never lived in the area of Palestine that is now Israel.
Why, also, should the U.S. provide more aid than other countries that court the Palestinians? The $150 million Blinken pledged is more than any country gave in 2019. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, for example, gave about $50 million each, and Qatar contributed $41 million.
The Arab states have reduced aid to the Palestinians because they are tired of their ingratitude, criticism of normalization with Israel and unwillingness to reach a peace agreement with Israel. The fact there was no uproar in the Arab world or cancellation of the Abraham Accords during Operation Guardian of the Walls was a further indication that Arab countries are focused on their own interests, no longer fear the mythical “Arab street” and believe the Palestinians should live with the consequences of their epically bad decisions.
If the Arabs can see this reality, why can’t the Biden administration?
From a humanitarian point of view, it is meritorious for Biden to provide aid to rebuild Gaza; however, it makes no sense to channel money through the P.A. kleptocracy given that it has no influence in Gaza—and was cheering for the rocket attacks on Israel. A State Department official admitted there is no guarantee aid won’t end up in the hands of Hamas.
More likely, any money that does reach Gaza will be diverted by Hamas, as in the past, to take care of its members, repair its infrastructure, construct new tunnels and acquire and build new rockets. In addition, Israeli journalist Amos Harel noted that “many of the materials used in Gaza’s weapons production were originally intended for civilian purposes. For example, salt can be used to produce explosives.”
Biden is providing a stimulus check for the next round of rocket fire. Let Qatar and the European Union finance reconstruction. The outcome will be the same but at least it will not involve American taxpayer money.
The real question is: How does a president supposedly interested in democracy and human rights justify violating U.S. law, strengthening an autocracy, subsidizing terrorism and anti-Semitism and undermining his own goal of a two-state solution?
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”