WASHINGTON — Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will reintroduce legislation on Tuesday that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to provide monetary support to the families of those who commit acts of terror against Israelis and others.
The bill, known as the Taylor Force Act, was first introduced last year by Graham with former Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. It was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, but never came up for a vote.
The legislation is named after former US army officer Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Tel Aviv. Force was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and was traveling with other students on a program studying global entrepreneurship.
He was 29 years old at the time and had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Graham’s office announced last Wednesday that he would reintroduce the measure during a press conference on February 28. Taylor Force’s parents, Stuart and Robbi Force, will join him, along with other GOP members of Congress, including Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn.
Introducing the legislation last September, Graham said it “shines a light on a very real problem.”
“Why is the Palestinian Authority paying young Palestinians to commit acts of terror against innocent Americans like Taylor Force or Israelis? The Palestinians need to decide – do they condemn these horrible acts or do they reward them?” he said.
“You can’t be a partner in peace when you are paying people to commit terrorist acts. The choice the Palestinians make will determine the type of relationship they have with the United States in the years to come.”
US foreign aid to the Palestinians is already under strict congressional oversight and restrictions based on concern that it could be “diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups.”
All aid is thus relegated to US-administered project assistance and budget support for the Palestinian Authority, along with donations going to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Palestinian Authority leaders are open about their policy of providing salaries and other benefits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including those convicted by Israeli civil courts of murder and terrorism, as well as to their families if they are killed while carrying out their attacks.
But the PA says that since 2014, these funds have been paid through the Palestine Liberation Organization, not the PA’s own budget, and so are not drawn from foreign donor governments’ development grants. Critics note that the heads of the PA and PLO are the same individuals, and insist the PLO uses PA funds for the payments
As per Palestinian law, Ramallah pays nearly $170 million a year to prisoners and families of terrorists. Prisoners’ monthly allowances increase with the length of sentence. According to MEMRI, the allowances range from $364 (NIS 1,500) a month for a term of up to three years, to $3,120 (NIS 13,000) for a term of 30 years and more. There is a monthly $78 supplement for terrorists from Jerusalem and a $130 supplement for Arab Israeli terrorists.
Late last year, the British government’s Department for International Development froze part of its aid to the Palestinian Authority over concerns the aid was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists.
In September 2016, the German government for the first time admitted that the Palestinian Authority likely grants financial support to terrorists and their families, and vowed to further investigate the matter.
As first reported in The Times of Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin responded to repeated queries by an opposition lawmaker by acknowledging that funds for so-called “martyrs” and Palestinian prisoners sitting in Israeli jails for security-related offenses come not only from the Palestine Liberation Organization but partially from the PA’s own budget.
Germany supports the PA annually with about €160 million ($179 million), but insists that the money only goes to specific development projects and not to the “salaries” for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons or to the relatives of killed terrorists.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.