Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised a new US law cutting aid to the Palestinians over payments to convicted terrorists and the families of slain assailants.
“I think this is a powerful message from the United States that changes the rules,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office.
He said the law will deprive the Palestinian Authority of “millions of dollars it uses to invest in supporting terror and cultivating the terrorist families and murderers themselves.”
Netanyahu thanked Congress and US President Donald Trump for signing the legislation, known as the Taylor Force act, into law Friday as part of a budget bill.
The law is named after Taylor Force, a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist during a visit to Israel.
The law will halt US funding to the PA until Ramallah stops issuing such payments. But it includes three exceptions, allowing for US funding to Palestinian water and childhood vaccination programs, as well as to East Jerusalem hospitals.
Up until Friday, Trump had not yet explicitly stated whether he would sign the Taylor Force bill into law, though a White House official told The Times of Israel in July that the president supports its principal objective.
One of the Taylor Force Act’s authors, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, thanked Force’s family and friends, who lobbied Congress to pass the bill and include it in the omnibus.
“I truly appreciate the hard work of the Force family and the many friends of Taylor Force who made it clear to Congress the practice of #PaytoSlay must be stopped,” he tweeted, hours before Trump signed it into law.
The Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas condemned it and vowed to continue paying families of “martyrs and prisoners.”
Yusef al Mahmoud, spokesperson for the PA government in Ramallah, said that the US should instead have called for “ending the occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people.”
Congress, he added, should also make aid to Israel conditional on “ending its occupation and settlements because it’s the occupation that is responsible for killing our people and throwing them into prison.”
The spokesperson said that the “martyrs and prisoners are, in the eyes of our people, sacred symbols of freedom and struggle and opposition to humiliation and surrender.”
Senator Bob Corker, one of the bill’s main sponsors, has said the Palestinian Authority has created monetary incentives for acts of terrorism by paying monthly stipends of as much as $3,500 to Palestinians who commit acts of violence and to their families.
The amount of the payment depends on the length of the jail sentence they receive for the crime, he said.
Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Taylor Force was an MBA student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and a West Point graduate who was visiting Israel in March 2016 when he was killed. Force was from Lubbock, Texas. His parents live in South Carolina.
Graham has said the Palestinian Authority praised Force’s killer as a “heroic martyr.” He estimated that the Palestinian Authority has paid $144 million in “martyr payments” over the years.
Eric Cortellessa and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.