WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced legislation Wednesday to end economic aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues its practice of compensating terrorists and their families.
Along with Republican Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Roy Blunt of Missouri, the senior senator from South Carolina unveiled the Taylor Force Act to defund the State Department’s economic aid program for Palestinians. The measure is named after a former Army field artillery officer who, in March, was stabbed to death by a suspected Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv. Force’s parents, Stuart and Robbi Force, attended the Capitol Hill news conference announcing the bill’s introduction in the Senate.
Force, a 28-year-old MBA student at Vanderbilt University at the time of the attack, was on a spring break trip to Israel when the stabbing occurred.
“We made it through the five years (of active-duty service),” Force’s father said. “We thought we were home free.”
The legislation calls on the Palestinian Authority to condemn such terrorist acts and cease terrorism-related payments. It would also require the secretary of state to certify to Congress that the Palestinian Authority is working to end terrorist acts toward U.S. and Israeli citizens.
The U.S. government has proposed more than $360 million in funding for the Palestinians in fiscal 2017, according to a March report from the Congressional Research Service. More than $5 billion in economic and security assistance has been provided since the mid-1990s.
The Palestinian government puts aside more than $300 million to provide monthly compensation for incarcerated terrorists or their families, as well as benefits including free education and health care, said Graham.
“These are laws on the books that reward young Palestinian men and women to commit acts of terrorism,” he said.
According to a 2015 State Department publication, the payments are seen as “an effort to reintegrate them (suspected terrorists) into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions.”
A State Department official declined to comment on the bill specifically, but said providing aid for the Palestinians “serves our vital national security interests.”
Both Coats and Graham expressed support for a two-state solution, but said that is not possible when one party supports state-sponsored terrorism.
“You will never achieve peace when you pay one of your young men to kill someone like Taylor,” Graham said. “That’s inconsistent, and it needs to stop.”
In 2014, Coats co-sponsored an amendment to reduce aid to Palestine by the amount compensated for acts of terrorism. It became law. The Palestinian Authority, however, has since played a “shell game,” Coats said, by having the Palestine Liberation Organization – a separate entity – provide the money instead.
For the 2017 fiscal year, Coats has offered an amendment to close the loophole by specifically naming “the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations.”
The Palestinian U.S. mission did not respond to a request for comment.