WASHINGTON — Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Monday night that Israel supports the Taylor Force Act, a bill working its way through the Senate that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority over its financial support of terrorism.
“Israel believes that the United States should end economic assistance to any government that pays people to kill Jews,” he told a crowd at the Christians United for Israel’s annual conference. “Period.”
The legislation, named for a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant while visiting Tel Aviv, would require the Palestinian Authority to stop paying stipends to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis, or else lose American aid.
Rebuffing reports that said Israel feared the legislation passing out of concern it would disrupt Israeli-Palestinian security coordination and West Bank stability, Dermer took a page out of US President Donald Trump’s rhetorical playbook, referring to those stories as “fake news.”
“Fake news always ignores the poison that has been taught, preached, and broadcast to a generation of young Palestinians since the Oslo Accords were signed 25 years ago,” he said. “Fake news refuses to expose the Palestinian glorification of terrorists, the naming of public squares after mass-murderers, and the ghoulish practice of the Palestinian Authority paying a lifetime salary to terrorists who murder Jews.”
He went on to cite South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who introduced the measure in February.
“Now that members of Congress … are actually trying to do something about this ghoulish practice by passing the Taylor Force Act, the purveyors of fake news don’t quit,” he said. “Just three days ago, this was the fake news headline of a Reuters story: ‘Israel frets over Congress push to slash Palestinian aid over terror payments.'”
(The article to which Dermer was referring appears to have actually been published in Al Monitor.)
“Fret? Ladies and gentlemen, I’m the ambassador of Israel to the United States, so my job is to speak for Israel in the United States. And I can assure you that Israel is not the slightest bit concerned that the Taylor Force Act will pass. Israel would be concerned if the Taylor Force Act didn’t pass.”
Earlier Monday, a Capitol Hill source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will “probably” approve the Taylor Force Act, but that some negotiating was still needed to bring it over the finish line.
The source said that the panel chairman, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R), was still discussing revisions with Sen. Graham. “If Corker and Graham work out the issues I know they continue to discuss,” the bill will advance through the committee, he said.
At a hearing last week, Corker questioned what he described as an “all or nothing” approach reflected in Graham’s original text and openly expressed consternation that pulling such funding could disrupt Israel’s security cooperation with the PA and lead to instability in the West Bank.
Several revisions have been recommended to address those issues, including giving the president waiver authority over the law if he finds it necessary to fund the PA for security purposes.
Those concerns were also reflected in a June letter signed by hundreds of high-level Israeli military officials warning the bill would spur a security crisis.
The letter, which was orchestrated by Commanders for Israeli Security, said the Taylor Force Act would “undermine PA stability; expand the circle of frustration and hostility; erode the security coordination; and thus hurt Israeli security.”
President Trump has not offered an opinion on the legislation, though he did confront PA President Mahmoud Abbas about the topic during their meetings in Washington and Bethlehem in May.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for his part, has also told House members there is an “active” bilateral discussion ongoing.
The United States currently gives the PA nearly $500 million in annual aid. The legislation would allow only the portion designated for security assistance — roughly $60 million — to remain in place.