WASHINGTON (JTA) — A key House panel has advanced a bill that would reduce U.S. payments to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to pay subsidies to the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed in attacks on Israelis.
The Taylor Force Act, named for an American who was stabbed to death in a 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, was approved unanimously Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill leaves some humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians in place.
Jewish Insider reported that the humanitarian exemptions came at the behest of Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special envoy handling Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Trump administration hopes to restart talks by next year.
“With this legislation, we are forcing the P.A. to choose between U.S. assistance and these morally reprehensible policies, and I am pleased to see this measure move forward in both chambers with so much support,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee’s chairman.
Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who is Jewish, and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced the measure.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the senior Democrat on the committee, praised the bipartisanship working on the bill and said before the vote, “I believe the approach we’re taking today strikes just the right balance.”
“I was glad to work with Chairman Royce to ensure this legislation would not have unintended consequences such as targeting humanitarian and democracy assistance or security cooperation,” he added.
The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee passed companion legislation in August that was similarly modified to accommodate concerns, raised mostly by Democrats, about the bill’s effect on humanitarian assistance.
The Palestinian Authority denies that the targeted program rewards terrorists, saying that most of the money goes to families whose relatives have been imprisoned without due process.
An array of Jewish and pro-Israel groups praised the committee for the unanimous passage, among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, The Israel Project, Christians United for Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Israeli American Council.
The Zionist Organization of America “reluctantly” endorsed the approval, noting its opposition to the humanitarian exemptions and saying that “every dollar” reaching areas controlled by Palestinian Authority, whether the money directly or indirectly reaches the P.A., “is of actual direct benefit to them in real terms.” U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority stands at about $260 million annually.
Also Wednesday, two measures were approved that would sanction entities backing Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.