There is bipartisan consensus for the need to fight Islamic terror central, and yet the American taxpayer helps finance an organization that incentivizes terrorism. Every year the Palestinian Authority (PA) spends hundreds of millions of dollars rewarding attacks on civilians, contributing directly to the wave of stabbings in Israel that took the life of U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force last year, among dozens of others. This week the House Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up legislation, dedicated in his name, that would create real pressure on the PA to end its brutal policy. We strongly urge Congress to act now and pass the Taylor Force Act.
Taylor Force was a West Point graduate and Army officer who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the military, he was murdered by a Palestinian in March 2016 while visiting Israel as a private citizen. The attacker, who was killed by police, was praised in official PA media as a martyr, and his family now receives a generous stipend from the PA.
This is part of a broader program, enshrined in PA law, to incite terrorism by individual Palestinians against Israelis and other civilians — including Americans like Taylor Force. This program provides a sliding scale of monthly salaries and benefits — including jobs in the PA — for those injured or imprisoned by Israel for such attacks: the more successful the attack, the bigger the payout. If the assailant is killed in the process, his or her family is eligible for similar rewards.
The PA spent an estimated $300 million last year, roughly seven percent of its total budget, on these payments to more than 30,000 terrorists and their families. It does so at the direct expense of helping provide a better future for its own citizens, and despite its heavy dependence on foreign aid for income.
Much of that aid comes from the United States — an average of $335 million annually over the last five years. The lion’s share, roughly $280 million per year in that span, is economic assistance to cover the PA’s significant debts, freeing up funds for their “pay-to-slay” system.
The issue has not gone unnoticed by Congress. Current law requires U.S. economic assistance be reduced proportionally to what the PA allocates to these payments. But this has not held true in practice. The PA continues receiving hundreds of millions in U.S. aid annually, and recently increased its subsidies to terrorists.
This is why the Taylor Force Act is so important. Instead of crimping payments around the margins, it would eliminate entirely all U.S. economic assistance until the PA ends its incitement. Like existing law, that means stopping payments for attacks. Unlike existing law, it also means the PA must revoke laws authorizing these payments, and must condemn publicly such actions instead of celebrating them.
The prospect of cutting off economic assistance naturally raises concerns, precisely because of the meaningful pressures it would create. But the bill would not touch U.S. security assistance to the PA, which is crucial to counterterrorism cooperation with Israel against Hamas and other radical Islamist groups in the West Bank.
It would also be far from the first time the United States has conditioned its aid to the PA — aid intended in the first place to prevent terrorism, improve life for the Palestinians, and support peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Instead, millions in American taxpayer dollars end up supporting the very opposite.
This goes far beyond dollars and cents. Earlier this month the Jewish Institute for National Security of America heard from Taylor Force’s father and honored a key champion of this legislation, Sander Gerber, who emphasized the bill’s core focus: “when we are ambiguous in our values, it undercuts the moral force of our legitimacy and leaves our allies to ponder, ‘does America have your back when American taxpayers are funding terrorists to stab you in the back?’”
Once the House Foreign Affairs Committee votes on the Taylor Force Act this week, we urge the full House and Congress to pass it as well and send to the president as soon as possible to sign. Passage will mark a vital step in the larger fight against terror, improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and defend our values.
Dr. Michael Makovsky is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, where Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, USN (ret.) is a member of the Board of Advisors.