WASHINGTON (JTA) — Republican senators introduced legislation that would withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority until the secretary of state certified that the P.A. was not rewarding terrorists or their families for attacks on Israelis and Americans.
The legislation introduced Wednesday by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Dan Coats, R-Ind., is named for Taylor Force, a student who was murdered in a stabbing terrorist attack in March.
“Why is the Palestinian Authority paying young Palestinians to commit acts of terror against innocent Americans like Taylor Force or Israelis?” Graham asked in a statement.
“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.”
Graham, who as chairman of the Senate’s foreign operations appropriations subcommittee is in a position to quickly advance the legislation, first announced plans to roll it out last week at the annual meeting of the Orthodox Union, a group that has led lobbying for legislation targeting compensation for terrorists.
The practice of paying “martyrs” and their families dates back decades and survived the Oslo peace process launched in 1993. Israel this year began to withhold taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority commensurate with Israeli estimates of the compensated amounts.
Earlier this year, the State Department told Bloomberg News that it shared with Israel the same practice under a law in place since 2014: deducting from payments amounts commensurate with compensation provided by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families.
Graham’s proposed legislation would withhold all economic assistance funds until the Palestinian Authority can show it is taking steps to end violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens, is publicly condemning the violence, and has ended the compensation. Current levels of assistance are between $400 million and $500 million.
Not mentioned in the legislation is funding for the Palestinian security forces, which Israel’s security establishment has credited as being helpful in stemming Palestinian violence.