WASHINGTON — Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s White House meeting Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, three GOP senators urged the US president to push the Palestinian leader on the PA’s cash payments to the families of terrorists.
“We urge you to raise this matter with President Abbas during his visit, and to make clear to him that the PA’s practice of diverting aid money to terrorists and their families must end,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.
Signed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the message argues that the United States cannot treat the Palestinians as a peace partner so long as they continue to reward terrorist activities.
“Morally it must end because the United States cannot be complicit in incentivizing terror,” the three said. “And strategically it must end because the PA will never convince Americans, the Congress, or Israel that it is serious about peace while it is still funding terror.”
The Republican legislators said the Palestinian Authority spends roughly $300 million annually on payments to terrorists and their families, including in the case of Taylor Force, a US army officer who was stabbed to death while visiting Israel in March 2016.
“Far from being an informal practice, these payments are codified in Palestinian Authority law,” the letter said. It went on to ask Trump to push Abbas to “repeal the PA’s laws that reward terror” and to “shut down the bureaucracy the PA has built to administer the program.”
One of the signatories, Graham, in February introduced the Taylor Force Act on Capitol Hill, which would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continued its monetary support of terror.
Trump, who will meet with Abbas for the first time this week, has already initiated an attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which he has referred to as “the ultimate deal.”
To jump-start negotiations, he sent US Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt in March on a “listening tour” in the region, where he met with various stakeholders in the decades-old conflict, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abbas and other Palestinian officials.
A high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat arrived in Washington last week to meet with Greenblatt and State Department officials to prepare for the meeting.
Abbas has previously said he believes “a historic peace deal is possible” under Trump’s stewardship.
The 82-year-old Palestinian leader will enter Wednesday’s talks amid a challenging domestic crisis at home, as about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails enter their third week of an open-ended hunger strike.
Large demonstrations have been held this week in both the West Bank and Gaza in support of the prisoners.