Supporters of the Palestinian cause are openly clamoring for the Biden administration to let the Palestinian Authority wriggle out of the ban on U.S. aid over the “pay for slay” policy. Friends of Israel should vigorously oppose these efforts.
“Pay for slay”—the P.A.’s system of giving financial rewards to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists—should not be a partisan issue for Americans. Remember: There was broad bipartisan support for the 2018 legislation known as the Taylor Force Act, which bars U.S. aid to the P.A. until that policy stops.
The vote in the House of Representatives was 256-167 (Republicans had a 238-201 majority at the time). The vote in the Senate (where the Republicans had a 51-47 majority) was 65-32. And many of the “no” votes in both chambers were not meant as a “no” on Taylor Force; they were connected to other segments of the package to which Taylor Force was attached.
Taylor Force, an army veteran and Vanderbilt University graduate student murdered in Jaffa in 2016, was one of the more than 140 Americans who have been killed in Israel by Palestinian Arab terrorists. They were not killed because they were Republicans or Democrats. Every American, regardless of his or her political affiliation, should want to do everything possible to deter Palestinian Arab terrorists.
Giving terrorists and their families financial rewards incentivizes terrorism. Forcing the P.A. to stop doing that will take away those incentives. That’s the key—forcing the P.A. to stop. Not coming up with gimmicks and sleight-of-hand maneuvers in order to avoid the Taylor Force restrictions.
The idea of coming up with such a gimmick was promoted in a major New York Times article on Nov. 19. It claimed that P.A. officials are planning to “overhaul” the system of paying terrorists in order to convince the United States to resume sending $500 million in aid annually.
What P.A. officials told the Times is not what they have been telling the folks back home. Palestinian Media Watch reports that “nearly every day since the Times report,” one or more senior P.A. officials have reaffirmed in Arabic that the payments to terrorists will continue.
What’s the gimmick that the P.A.’s American friends are promoting? Acting on “the advice of sympathetic Democrats” and “Washington think tanks,” according to the Times, the P.A. would give out the payments “based on their financial needs instead of how long they are behind bars.”
I’m sure it was just a coincidence that a former Obama administration official who is now with a Washington think tank, David Makovsky, told The Jerusalem Post last week that “the Palestinians would be smart [to adopt] a compromise plan that would allow for a welfare system that would avoid giving money” based on terrorism, but instead would be based on financial needs.
That’s not a “compromise.” It’s not a genuine “welfare system.” It’s a trick. And it’s the most contemptible kind of trick—the kind that is performed openly, right before our eyes, as if we’re all too stupid to realize what they’re doing.
It’s easy enough to imagine how it will proceed. An official of the P.A.’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs will stamp a piece of paper that says, “You are hereby given X amount of money based on our determination of your financial need.” The amount of money given to each family of a terrorist will be the same as before, only it will come with the piece of paper that —presto!— certifies the money is now being given for “financial need.”
The great irony is that the “peace” activists who are trying to get American money to the P.A. in this fashion are actually undermining peace, not advancing it. The only hope for a real peace is to wean Palestinian Arab society away from its glorification of terrorism. Through whatever financial or other pressure is available, we need to force the P.A. to stop paying terrorists, stop naming schools and streets after terrorists, and stop using their media to portray terrorists as heroes.
The Palestinians need to genuinely recognize that terrorism is morally wrong and expunge their terrorists from their society—just as the Allies compelled the German people, after World War II, to recognize that Nazism was evil and to expunge it from their society. Sticking to the Taylor Force Act is one way to advance that goal. Helping them trick their way around it will only encourage terrorism and prolong the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle.