In March 2016, a 29-year-old former U.S. Army officer named Taylor Force was fatally stabbed in Jaffa, Israel, reportedly by a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, who was himself killed. The attack came during the so-called Knife Intifada carried out by mostly young Palestinians. In death, Taylor Force lent his name to a Senate bill, the Taylor Force Act, which was reintroduced last week in Congress.
The purpose of the bill is simple. It responds to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to Palestinians jailed by Israel or the families of those killed by Israelis, a group that includes terrorists and those suspected of terror. The Taylor Force Act would require the State Department to cut off the $300 million the United States gives the Palestinians annually unless the P.A. ceases this “martyr” compensation program. “We’re going to get the Palestinian Authority’s attention by withholding our money,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a sponsor of the legislation who sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
The approach of the Act has been criticized as too simple. Not a single Democrat has voiced support for what appears on its face to be an opportunity to craft a bipartisan response to what is arguably a policy of using U.S. tax dollars to reward terrorism.
AIPAC is reported to believe that the legislation “would need significant edits in order to earn Democratic support,” and has declined to give the bill its stamp of approval.
Last week, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, perhaps the most hawkish Senate Democrat, said he has “a degree of sympathy” with the goal of the bill, if not its current form. He was quoted as saying: “Whether that is a more calibrated denial of money versus what I am hearing, which is an outright cut, is the only question for me.”
Menendez also wants to consult with the Israeli government, which has its own views on when and how to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority. “I don’t know that Israel needs a collapsed Palestinian Authority next door to them,” he said.
The risk of making things worse seems to be the major reason Democrats, at the moment at least, don’t want to touch the Taylor Force Act. “I generally don’t support an approach that could jeopardize needed assistance for stability in the West Bank,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a sentiment that was echoed by Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Cardin is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Corker is its chairman.
We understand that there are competing concerns being expressed about Taylor Force. If the current version isn’t the answer to the very real problem of American cash ending up in the pockets of terrorists’ families, then it should be amended or dropped. But some solution needs to be found to an offensive practice that encourages Palestinians to engage in terror.