WASHINGTON – Congress is expected to pass a bill this week that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.
The PA passionately opposes this bill, claiming that its “martyr” compensation scheme benefits generations of families that include those of legitimate combatants in the Palestinian struggle for independence. Israel argues that the program encourages Palestinian violence against innocent civilians.
The Trump administration agrees with Israel, and US President Donald Trump has personally appealed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in past meetings to end the program. Senior administration officials told The Jerusalem Post that Trump supports the legislation and plans on signing it into law once it reaches his desk.
The law would dramatically halt US financial assistance to the PA absent reform, while retaining aid allotted to security cooperation and some humanitarian relief. After negotiating some wiggle room into the bill, granting the PA time to phase out the program, Democrats wholeheartedly endorsed the GOP-drafted legislation.
The legislation passed the House of Representatives in December with bipartisan support.
“After over two years of very hard work, we are on the verge of having the Taylor Force Act become law,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who authored and introduced the legislation. “This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation I’ve been involved with. The powerful message from the Force family, along with effort from the pro-Israel community led by Sander Gerber, have made this possible.”
For decades, the PA has provided monthly stipends to Palestinians convicted of murder or terrorism relative to the length of their prison sentences, and to the families of slain terrorists. The PA considered the program a fundamental pillar of its welfare system.
Trump’s Middle East peace team characterizes the practice as contrary to the pursuit of peace. But passage and implementation of the Taylor Force Act comes at a delicate time in US-PA relations, when the peace team is trying to lure Palestinians back to the table, and when the PA already sees the US as skewed against its interests.
American Jewish organizations and Israel advocacy organizations, including the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, support the legislation. The bill is expected to pass within an omnibus spending package.
Taylor Force was an American Army veteran murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa in 2016.