The US Senate approved the Taylor Force Act with bipartisan support as part of the approved fiscal budget bill last Friday.
The legislation, which cuts US funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if it pays rewards to terrorists, is named after Taylor Force, an American veteran who was stabbed to death in a terrorist attack in Israel two year ago. The Bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, waste water programmes and child vaccination initiatives. It will also not affect the $60m annual US aid to the PA’s security and intelligence forces.
The White House said it “commends Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most US foreign assistance that directly benefits the PA until [it] ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday the Act was: “a powerful signal from the US, which is changing the rules. It is no longer ready to accept the truths of the past – or, rather, the falsehoods of the past – and live with them”.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said.
According to a July report by the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, the PA’s 2017 budget for payments to Palestinians in Israeli prisons and so-called “families of martyrs” is $153.4m, a 13 per cent increase compared to 2016 and equal to half the foreign aid the PA expects to receive this year. In 2017 the US gave the PA nearly $500m in annual aid.
The PA opposes the new legislation, claiming that its “martyr” compensation scheme benefits generations of families that include those of legitimate combatants in the Palestinian struggle for independence.