Terrorism is a major global issue, with millions, if not billions, of dollars being spent on anti-terrorism every year. Yet, for all the time and effort the U.S. puts into fighting terrorism, U.S. money is going toward funding it as well.
The United States gives about $400 million annually to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in humanitarian and debt repayment assistance. This money is mainly given as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program and makes up approximately 55 percent of the nearly $700 million the PA receives each year from international sources. This would be typical international aid to a struggling moderate power, except for one thing: This money may be going to terrorists. The PA spends about $345 million of their budget, funded by foreign aid, to a program that monetarily rewards terrorists in Israeli prisons and their families.
This program, the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, is n clear reward, even incentive, for terrorist attacks; for this reason, critics of this program aptly call it “Pay to Slay.”
That is where the Taylor Force Act comes in.
Introduced by South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham, the Taylor Force Act would cut off U.S. aid to the PA, exempting humanitarian programs, until the State Department certifies that the PA no longer sponsors terror. The proposed legislation enjoys bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and was recently passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Even Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer supports it, all but ensuring enough Democratic support to override a possible filibuster, which requires 60 votes.
This month, the PA stated: “The [Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)] will continue its national, moral, and humanitarian responsibility towards the occupation’s victims, the victims of the organized state terror, and the victims of the herds of settlers and their terror organizations…” The facts are clear. This will not end unless we make it end.
Beyond Israel’s security, this bill is important for a different reason: the peace process. The PA’s legitimacy in the international community is conditioned upon a simple principle: they are the moderate, non-violent representation of the Palestinian people, unlike Hamas, which is internationally recognized as a terror organization. As long as “pay to slay” continues, however, there is no true difference between Fatah, the current ruling party of the PA, and Hamas. Any differences between them are simply aesthetic. Hamas openly admits they support violence, and the PA just tacitly (or not so tacitly, if one looks at Abbas) supports violence. Supporters of the bill argue that unless it is passed and leads to the shuttering of the “pay to slay” program, the U.S. shouldn’t negotiate with the PA the same way they refuse to negotiate with Hamas.
Critics say this bill will either lead to the end of security cooperation between Israel and the PA, or can even lead to the collapse of the PA. The counterargument, however, is that if the PA chooses to shut down its security cooperation with Israel rather than terminate its Martyr’s Fund, Israel will be forced to act and move deeper into PA territory to capture terrorists, which would set the Palestinian cause back far more than ending funding to murderers and their families will.
If the PA would rather shut its doors than stop funding violence, terrorism, and murder, it says a lot about this supposedly moderate force in Palestinian politics.
By Shep Gerszberg
Shep Gerszberg is a junior at the George Washington University studying international affairs, Middle East studies, and conflict resolution.