WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has softened a bill that cuts U.S. funding to Palestinian areas as long as the Palestinian Authority pays subsidies to the families of Palestinians who attack Israelis.
The change to the Taylor Force Act apparently was made to attract Democratic and mainstream pro-Israel support.
On Wednesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee endorsed the measure, a day ahead of its consideration by the committee, in a signal that the moderated bill now has bipartisan backing.
AIPAC does not generally back legislation without considerable backing on both sides of the aisle, and the bill, named for an American stabbed to death in a 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, until now did not have significant Democratic backing.
“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider the Taylor Force Act (S.1697) tomorrow,” AIPAC said on Twitter. “We urge members to vote yes.”
As originally written, the bill would have slashed the vast majority of funds earmarked for the Palestinians unless the Palestinian Authority stopped the payments.
It is not clear how deep the cuts would be under the newer version, but its definitions are much narrower than previous ones. The original draft, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., broadly cut “assistance” to the Palestinian areas, while the more recent draft targets assistance that would directly benefit the Palestinian Authority. The effect is to leave in place humanitarian assistance programs operated outside the aegis of the Palestinian Authority.
The bill also “supports the creation of a general welfare system available to all Palestinian citizens within the jurisdictional control of the Palestinian Authority.” Such a system could conceivably replace Palestinian Authority programs that subsidize the families of Palestinian attackers.
Under the act, the State Department must certify that the Palestinian Authority is “taking credible and verifiable steps to end acts of violence against Israeli citizens and United States citizens that are perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control.”
Israeli security officials reportedly had quietly objected to the act as originally written, fearing that cutting the $250 million to $300 million earmarked for the Palestinian areas would seriously destabilize the West Bank and lead to violence. The act would in its earlier version have left in place $60 million that subsidizes the Palestinian Authority police. Those subsidies remain in the new version.