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What is the US government doing to enforce the Taylor Force Act?

Moral clarity requires that Secretary Blinken unequivocally demand an immediate end to the P.A.’s “pay-for-slay” policy as a non-negotiable precondition to establishing any form of revitalized Palestinian entity.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 13, 2023. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 13, 2023. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch is the director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; a senior legal analyst for Human Rights Voices; and a member of the Israel Defense and Security Forum.

It seems that the U.S. Department of State may have forgotten to push for the complete abolition of the Palestinian Authority’s terror-rewarding “pay-for-slay” policy. Ignoring these payments, estimated at over $350 million annually, encourages the P.A.’s malign behavior, pushing peace further away. Instead, by refraining from a clear ultimatum to the P.A., the Department of State is ignoring U.S. law—the Taylor Force Act—and legitimizing the P.A.’s intolerable policy. As long as the P.A. continues to incentivize terror and reward the murder of Jews, there is no chance whatsoever to promote any constructive dialogue toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The bipartisan U.S. Taylor Force Act, adopted in 2018, declares that “The Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.”

Following the declaration, TFA adopts two main thrusts. On the one hand, as a financial consequence, it stipulates that most of the U.S. aid to the P.A. depends on the P.A. abolishing its “pay-for-slay” terror reward policy. On the other hand, as a long-term diplomatic goal, it urges “the Department of State to use its bilateral and multilateral engagements with all governments and organizations committed to the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to highlight the issue of Palestinian Authority payments for acts of terrorism and to urge such governments and organizations to join the United States in calling on the Palestinian Authority to cease such payments immediately.”

While the P.A.’s position to dogmatically clutch its “pay-for-slay” policy has seen it forfeit over $1 billion in potential U.S. aid in the last three years, very little has been done to achieve the diplomatic goal of ending the terror payments.

The Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs appointed by the Department of State, Hady Amr, has met with P.A. officials on many occasions. Never once has he issued a public statement demanding the abolition of “pay-for-slay.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met on multiple occasions with P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas, including four meetings since the Oct. 7 massacre. From the public statements, declarations and readout of those meetings, it appears that the subject of the P.A.’s “pay-for-slay” did not arise.

Since the most recent meeting, on Feb. 7, it has become even more apparent that the P.A. not only intends to continue paying its terror rewards, but will pay rewards to the terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre and murdered, raped, tortured, beheaded and burned alive over 1,200 people and took another 240 hostages.

Despite this reality, in the statement issued by the Department of State following the meeting, there was no mention of a demand that Abbas and the P.A. immediately and unconditionally abolish the policy. On the contrary, the statement merely said that Secretary Blinken “conveyed the United States’ commitment to increasing the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza…reiterated the United States’ support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state…discussed the benefits of revitalizing the Palestinian Authority…[and] reinforced the United States reject[ion of] any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.”

Abbas’s statement, on the other hand, made specific reference to the fact that Abbas urged “Washington to put more pressure on Israel to release the Palestinian clearance funds.”

According to the Oslo Accords and in return for the (constantly breached) Palestinian commitment to combat terror, Israel agreed to waive certain taxes, which it would continue to collect and transfer to the P.A. The P.A. refers to these taxes as “clearance revenues.” In 2018, following the U.S. adoption of the Taylor Force Act, Israel also adopted legislation that punishes the P.A. for its “pay-for-slay” policy by deducting the sum the P.A. pays to terrorists for acts of terror from the tax revenue. To date, the P.A. has lost over 3 billion shekels (approximately $820 million), a sum equivalent to the P.A. payments to terrorists from 2018 through 2022. So when Abbas urges Washington to release the “Palestinian clearance funds,” he is referring to the sums withheld by Israel from the taxes as a direct result of the P.A.’s “pay-for-slay” policy.

In other words, as Abbas and the P.A. continue to pay rewards to terrorist murderers, they expect the U.S. Secretary of State to breach U.S. law, actively undermine Israeli law and provide them with even more funds. Those funds will not be used for the benefit of the Palestinian people. Instead, they will be used to pay the additional expenses the P.A. has taken upon itself to reward the terrorists who carried out the Oct. 7 massacre.

In this extraordinary situation, moral clarity requires that Secretary Blinken unequivocally demand an immediate end to the P.A.’s “pay-for-slay” policy as a non-negotiable precondition to establishing any form of revitalized Palestinian entity, both in its current or potentially sovereign version. Regretfully the P.A.’s current foundations are entrenched and institutionalized in the multi-billion-dollar policy to reward terror and encourage terrorists to slaughter Jews.

Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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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