(CNSNews.com) – With all eyes on President Trump’s expected Jerusalem policy announcement, the House of Representatives on Tuesday dealt the Palestinian Authority another potential blow by passing legislation withholding funds until the P.A. stops paying terrorists.
“If you finance or reward terrorism, you don’t deserve a penny from the United States,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said after the bipartisan bill passed by voice vote. “The Palestinian Authority should be forced to choose between its despicable practice of paying terrorists’ salaries and receiving foreign aid funded by the American taxpayer.”
The Taylor Force Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and co-sponsored by 169 lawmakers from both parties, is named for U.S. Army veteran and Vanderbilt student Taylor Force who during a visit to Israel was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Jaffa in March last year.
P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization hailed Bashar Masalha, the terrorist who killed Force and wounded another ten people during the attack before being shot dead, as a “heroic martyr.”
Masalha’s relatives benefited after his death from the longstanding P.A. policy of paying stipends to terrorists – or if they are killed, to their families.
Published reports indicate that a Palestinian jailed for an attack which did not lead to fatalities receives a $400 monthly salary, while in cases where victims were killed the amount rises to $3,400 a month. There are also increases linked to the length of sentence, and grants issued upon release from prison that can reach $25,000 for a released killer.
Dead terrorists’ families receive stipends that begin at $100 a month and increase depending on the family circumstances of the “martyr.”
A comprehensive study published last summer by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found that the P.A. dedicates almost half (49.6 percent) of all 2017 foreign budgetary aid – most of which comes from the U.S. and Europe – to payments to prisoners and ex-prisoners, and the families of “martyrs.”
Critics say the payments not only send the wrong message to Palestinians, but amount to an incentive to carry out attacks – and especially attacks that cost lives.
“This system is a disgrace,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Tuesday. “It is also the result of an abiding climate of hatred Palestinians leaders continue to foster toward Jews and Israelis.”
The P.A. has defended the payments as “humanitarian” and a form of welfare.
Last August, the head of the PLO mission in Washington, Husam Zomlot, was quoted by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an as saying he had told U.S. decision-makers that “if there is a choice between the American aid and our responsibilities to our people we will choose the latter.”
“In Taylor’s memory, we must stop sending aid money to an entity that rewards his murderer’s family and prevents any future injustice,” Lamborn said Tuesday after the measure passed.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to vote ‘yes’ on this bill and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financing terrorism.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last August passed an amended version of the original bill, including an amendment to create an escrow fund to hold the set-aside money until the secretary of state certifies that the P.A. has stopped the payments.