Trump administration backs bill to halt aid to Palestinians

The Trump administration “strongly supports the Taylor Force Act,” which counters the PA policy of paying terrorists and their families, the State Department announced.

The Trump administration declared its firm support Thursday for a bill that would suspend US financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ends what critics have described as a long-standing practice of rewarding Palestinians who kill Americans and Israelis.

The State Department announcement comes nearly six weeks after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed the measure. The legislation, named after an American who was stabbed to death in Israel by a Palestinian terrorist, reflects bipartisan outrage over what lawmakers have termed a “pay for slay” program endorsed by the PA.

“The Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, which is a consequence of PA and Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) policy of paying terrorists and their families,” the State Department said.

US President Donald Trump, the State Department added, “raised the need to end any part of this program that incentivizes violence against Israeli and American citizens with President Mahmoud Abbas last May in both Washington and Bethlehem.”

Monetary Incentives for Acts of Terror

The PA has disputed the accusations and called the bill misinformed. Husam Zomlot, chief representative of the Palestinian General Delegation to the US, said last month that the program is more than 50 years old and is aimed at giving support to families “who lost their breadwinners to the atrocities of the occupation, the vast majority of whom are unduly arrested or killed by Israel.”

One of the bill’s main sponsors, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the PA has created monetary incentives for acts of terrorism by paying monthly stipends of as much as $3,500 to Palestinians who commit acts of violence and to the terrorists’ families. The amount of the payment depends on the length of the jail sentence, he said.

Taylor Force was an MBA student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and a West Point graduate who was visiting Israel in March 2016 when he was killed.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the PA praised Force’s killer as a “heroic martyr.” He estimated that the PA has paid $144 million in “martyr payments” over the years.

Hundreds of millions of foreign aid dollars to the Palestinians are used by their government to finance and promote terrorism. The PA has significantly increased its spending on salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons and to families of terrorist “martyrs” – those killed while committing acts of terror against Israel. These payments consume half of the foreign aid received by the PA.

According to the PA’s own budget, salaries to incarcerated and released terrorists will amount to 552 million shekels ($153.4 million) in 2017, a 13-percent rise over the 2016 proposed budget and 11 percent more than actual expenditures in 2016. The money will be transferred to the Palestinian National Fund, the financial arm of the PLO, which was designated by Israel as a terror organization due to its involvement in paying terrorist salaries.

Altogether, the expenditures for supporting terror in the 2017 PA budget are 1.24 billion shekels ($344 million). A report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs shows that this sum constitutes seven percent of the total budget, similar to the past several years, but amounts to 49.6 percent of foreign aid received by the PA due to the diminishing amount of external aid expected in 2017.

As in previous years, the budget includes benefits to the families of arrested terrorists and of those killed and wounded while committing acts of terror.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff