A law to stop pensions to Palestinian families

September 10, 2017
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:

1) Haaretz: Taylor Force Act Now Almost Certain to Start in 2018, Cutting U.S. Funds to Palestinian Authority;
2) Arab Centre DC: Taylor Force Act: Putting the Palestinian Authority on Notice, this analysis of the Act’s likely effects by Marcus Montgomery is the best available;
3) The Hill: Pavlich: Make the Taylor Force Act law, unusually vulgar for The Hill – Katie Pavlich, CUFI (Christians United For Israel) supporter, as is Committee for Israel, says the PA has a ‘pay for slay’ scheme;
4) Times of Israel: Attack ad targets Cory Booker for voting against Taylor Force Act, Democrat Senator Cory Booker is threatened by Committee for Israel [how many lobby groups does Israel need?];

The view of Israel and Stuff: “Family of Palestinian terrorist who butchered American veteran Taylor Force, while he toured Israel, is receiving a generous monthly stipend, subsidized by American taxpayers.”

The fundamental lie here is the assertion that the PA rewards killings of American/Israelis. It does not. It pays stipends to the families of Palestinians killed by Israelis. How could it not?

Taylor Force Act Now Almost Certain to Start in 2018, Cutting U.S. Funds to Palestinian Authority

Bill sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham attaches legislation to Foreign Operations budget, to ensure bill wouldn’t lose out because of tight Senate schedule

Amir Tibon (Washington), Haaretz
Sep 07, 2017

The Taylor Force Act was attached to the 2018 Foreign Operations budget in the Senate on Thursday, meaning the legislation is almost certainly assured of being enforced in the United States from next year.

The legislation is intended to cut U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority while it continues to financially support convicted terrorists and their families.

The legislation was already approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support in August.

However, original sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) feared that because of the tight schedule facing the Senate over coming weeks, the legislation would not reach a vote before the entire Senate, ahead of the deadline for legislation to take effect in the next fiscal year.

Graham decided on Thursday to attach the legislation to the foreign operations budget, which was approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The amendment approved by the committee makes a clear distinction between American funding that benefits the PA directly, which will be suspended, and funding that goes to civilian institutions such as hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which will continue to receive support.

A similar distinction was added to the original legislation after experts who served under both the Bush and Obama administrations recommended such an addition.

The Taylor Force Act is named for the Vanderbilt University graduate student and former U.S. Army officer stabbed to death in Jaffa by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016. It would make future U.S. assistance that directly benefits the PA contingent on it ending its current policies concerning payments to convicted terrorists and families of terrorists.

When introducing the act in February, Graham explained that it was not meant to punish the Palestinians. “Americans want to help the Palestinians, but not if that money ends up supporting terrorism,” Graham said. He added that if the PA stopped the policy of financing convicted terrorists and their families, he would support the renewal of assistance to the Palestinians. “The victims of this policy of financing terrorists are Israeli citizens, American citizens, and also young Palestinians,” he added.

The Palestinians have criticized the act. The Palestinian envoy in Washington, Husam Zomlot, warned in August that the legislation will harm the peace process with Israel.

Zomlot defended the PA’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists and their families, and said the act stands in the way of Ramallah’s efforts “to provide for the security and well-being of its people” who live under Israeli occupation.

The killer of Taylor Force was 21-year-old Bashar Masalha from the city of Qalqilya who went on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv. He was shot dead by police.



Taylor Force Act: Putting the Palestinian Authority on Notice

By Marcus Montgomery  Arab Centre DC
August 03, 2017

In March 2016, a graduate student and US Army veteran named Taylor Force was stabbed to death while visiting Tel Aviv. In the wake of the attack, western media reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA)—which is the internationally recognized governing body of the West Bank and Gaza Strip—and Palestinian media outlets failed to condemn the murder and praised the Palestinian attacker who left Force dead and a number of others wounded.The alleged Palestinian posture after Force’s death has been used by critics to accuse the PA of waging a campaign of inciting violence against Israelis. The PA––through the PLO’s Commission of Prisoners Affairs––has long extended financial support for political prisoners held by Israel and paid salaries to the families of individuals who are killed by the Israeli military.

The PA’s rationale is that these are a type of social welfarepayment to help the families of incarcerated individuals, many of whom they believe are political prisoners.However, because the PA guarantees such financial support for all who are imprisoned or “martyred,” critics of the payments call it a “pay-to-slay” scheme. They decry the entire system of financial support as a method of incentivizing young Palestinians to carry out acts of violence against Israelis.

Members of the US Congress have proposed legislation that would condition US financial support to the PA on ending payments to alleged “terrorists” and their families. The appetite for passing this legislation has grown to the point that high ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) expect to see it adopted before the end of summer 2017. In fact, SFRC Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) recently reached a deal with his Democratic Party counterparts to revise the language and markup the bill on August 3.

The chairman has stated that he hopes the Senate passes the Taylor Force Act before senators leave Washington for their two-week recess later this month. Indeed, the act was passed by the SFRC on August 3 by a vote of 16 to 5 with amendments.

Taylor Force, age 28, a former professional soldier studying Israeli entrepreneurship for an MBA, was killed by Bashar Masalha. On March 8 2016 Masalha launched several stabbing sprees in and around Jaffa, killing one person (Taylor Force) and wounding more than a dozen more, some seriously. 

What to Expect in the Taylor Force Act

Since this session of Congress began, two related pieces of legislation have been introduced that targeted US foreign economic assistance to the PA.Despite lawmakers’ desire for such legislation, neither of the two bills satisfied enough members of Congress to warrant pursuing. Instead, Senator Corker struck the aforementioned agreement and crafted a revised version of the bill bearing the late Taylor Force’s name.The revised legislation, like the previous versions, conditions any appropriated funds available to the West Bank and Gaza Strip on a satisfactory certification being submitted to Congress by the secretary of state. The secretary’s written report must certify that the PA is taking legitimate actions to prevent the people within its jurisdiction from committing acts of violence.Further, the secretary of state must certify that the PA has ended all payments to prisoners who were tried fairly and convicted of acts of terrorism, and to the families of those who died while committing an act of terror.

Finally, the report must certify that all laws, regulations, decrees, or documents that use the length of a sentence or a period of incarceration to determine the amount of compensation have been revoked, as the PA determines funding by time spent in incarceration.This last part directly targets the scheme that exemplifies critics’ claims of “pay-to-slay.”

While this was likely to have started to address the ambiguity of sentences that comes with Israel’s use of administrative detentions (without charges or trials), it is viewed as incentivizing more violent, gruesome acts. The logic suggests that committing the most violent crime will get the assailant the longest jail sentence, thus providing him or her—and possibly his or her family—the most financial support.

The latest version of the Taylor Force Act includes a number of changes suggested by experts around the policy community. For instance, former American diplomat Elliott Abrams testified during a recent SFRC hearing on the subject that the East Jerusalem Hospital Network—six hospitals that operate in the occupied territories—should be exempt from the punitive measure of cancelling PA funding.

The PA is indebted to the hospital network and any financial strain on the PA directly reduces the amount of money the hospitals receive to treat Palestinians. Additionally, it appears that Senator Corker and his confidants carefully considered the unintended consequences of previous versions’ language.<

As former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stated in the same hearing, the previous versions of the act would have stripped funding from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) to Palestine, and this would harm everyday Palestinians more than the PA could itself.

Instead, this version of the bill specifically dictates that only funds that directly benefit the PA would be withheld. Despite tough posturing from some in Congress, this language is more watered down and does not effectively mean a wholesale cut in US aid to Palestine.

Policy in Motion

If—or more likely, when—this legislation becomes law, there are several options for how things would proceed. First, what happens if the PA acquiesces and meets the certification standards for US funding? Per this legislation, if the secretary of state certifies that the PA satisfactorily meets the requirements, then funding would remain in place. The certification must be renewed every 180 days, but should the report remain, then the United States would continue providing financial support to the West Bank and Gaza, even if it directly benefits the PA.

However, the likelihood of the PA agreeing to such procedures is very low. Despite the western media’s and American politicians’ characterization of the PA’s funding as material support for terrorism, the majority of Palestinians simply do not view it that way. There are, undoubtedly, some members of the Palestinian prisoner population in Israel who are receiving financial support—the same goes for the families of deceased Palestinians—even when they committed acts of terror. But, there is also evidence to suggest that many of these reports inflate the number of accused “terrorists” on the PA’s payroll.

Calculations are based on inflated numbers that conflate all Palestinian prisoners with terrorists

For example, a recent article claims that half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget will be dedicated to paying salaries to terrorists or dead terrorists’ families—totaling $355 million—in 2017. However, those calculations are based on inflated numbers that conflate all Palestinian prisoners with terrorists.

Aside from the age-old argument that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” many critics of the PA’s aid system appear to neglect the fact that Israel’s own Prison Service differentiates between those incarcerated under terrorism charges (i.e., “security prisoners”) and those who are convicted of miscellaneous charges of supporting a resistance movement.

It is even more difficult to assess how many Palestinian prisoners are truly criminals of either variety. Human rights organizations have reported that Israeli military courts have nearly a 100 percent conviction rate for Palestinians. This raises serious questions about the courts’ biases and the underlying interests for incarcerating so many Palestinians.

Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned over 700,000 Palestinians.

The distinction between terrorism and other charges is important for US lawmakers to consider when lobbying for the payments practice to end. For many Palestinians, the payments are crucial for maintaining some semblance of dignity, and the financial support is considered more welfare than blood money.

Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned over 700,000 Palestinians. With at least 20 percent of the PA’s population benefitting from these salaries and benefits, it is, quite frankly, political suicide for the PA to revoke such payments. Pushing Mahmoud Abbas—an already unpopular president—to end an extremely popular welfare program is priming the people for a popular uprising that could manifest as chaos and violence. Many members of Congress do not support the justification that ending the practice is too politically difficult for the PA’s leadership, but that does not make it any less of a factor.

Instead, the PA could potentially dig in and refuse to give in to US lawmakers’ demands, prompting Congress to cease payments. If this is the case, how would the PA’s operations and, therefore, the rest of Palestinian society be affected?

The United States has provided the PA a total of $5 billion since the establishment of the governing body in the mid-1990s, but annual aid to the Palestinian Authority decreased over the final years of the Obama Administration. Additionally, over the last five years the United States has preferred to earmark funds to pay the PA’s debts and to be delivered as project assistance to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian institutions in the occupied territories, bypassing the PA completely.

If the United States were to cut off all funding that directly benefited the PA, this would only nominally affect the everyday operations of the government in Ramallah. The government rarely sees most of the US funds anyway. Moreover, as per the Oslo Accords, 75 percent of the PA’s budget comes from the customs and taxes collected by Israel on Palestine’s behalf, which are then transferred to the PA (though sometimes these transfers are withheld by Israel for political reasons).

With all this in mind, PA officials have surmised that the government could continue operating under austerity measures. This is especially true because although Israel supports passage of the Taylor Force Act, it has not made any proactive measures to delay or halt disbursing the taxes and customs monies.

The revised version of this bill includes softer language that addresses the concerns of more pragmatic observers, like members of US and Israeli security sectors. Previous versions of the bill called for ending all aid that was appropriated to the West Bank and Gaza, a move that especially troubled high-level Israeli intelligence and military officers.

Under the new language, lawmakers focused narrowly on funds directly benefitting the PA because doing otherwise could undermine humanitarian and security efforts in the West Bank and Gaza. A recent report illustrates that 30 percent of international aid, largely from the United States and European Union (EU), boosts the Palestinian security sector. Jeopardizing the delicate security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians would undoubtedly create more security concerns for Israel, not less.

Is the United States the Odd Man Out?

It is possible that the PA would choose to terminate its welfare system in order to retain US funding. It is also plausible that the PA refuses and the United States moves to end portions of its financial support. Should the latter happen, the most likely scenario involves other countries and global organizations increasing aid to the PA.

As it stands, some officials in the PA already view the EU, not the United States, as the most important source of aid in the world, particularly since it has been the primary funder of the PA. In addition, the global order is more uncertain now than in years past, with the United States decidedly retreating from the world stage.

If the United States chooses to reduce its contributions to the PA, stable countries like Germany and France could see to it that the EU picks up some slack. Asian powers like Japan and China have sought a leadership role in the Middle East, so those two countries could leverage funding for influence.

Finally, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as other Arab states, could reinsert themselves as donors in an effort to groom closer ties with Israel and undermine the influence of GCC neighbour and rival, Qatar.

The Taylor Force Act will very likely become law before the end of the year. Leaders of both parties in both chambers of Congress support the idea behind the law and thus far, the White House has spoken favourably of signing such a bill.

While members of Congress can claim victory in punishing the PA for making payments to prisoners and their families, the revised bill’s language is loose enough to prevent cutting US funding completely. Instead, this version provides for what Abrams deemed a 50 percent withdrawal of funds while allowing for periodic reviews of the effects of the cuts. Essentially, therefore, Congress is putting the PA on notice; but how effective this legislation will be in accomplishing lawmakers’ goals is unknown.

Marcus Montgomery is a Junior Analyst at Arab Center Washington DC.

Pavlich: Make the Taylor Force Act law

By Katie Pavlich, The Hill
August 01, 2017

Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Christians United For Israel dinner, better known as CUFI, in Washington, D.C.

Each year CUFI members and activists come to the nation’s capital and lobby lawmakers to support pro-Israel legislation. This year the Taylor Force Act was made a priority during meetings with congressmen from across the country, but many activists I spoke to said they had trouble getting full support for the legislation.

“They either don’t know what the Taylor Force Act is or they aren’t interested in pushing it because they view it as giving up leverage on the Palestinian side,” one activist told me.

Quite the shame. The Taylor Force Act isn’t simply about Israel, it’s about stopping terrorism.

The Taylor Force Act was introduced in February after 28-year-old American Taylor Force was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa, Israel. Force, an Eagle Scout and West Point graduate who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting the country in 2016 after leaving the military and transitioning to civilian life. The family of the terrorist who killed him was financially rewarded by the Palestinian Authority through its “pay for slay” programme, which encourages the killing of innocent Israelis or Americans.

If passed, the legislation would cut off federal aid to the West Bank and Gaza until the Palestinian Authority “take steps to end acts of violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control, such as the March 2016 attack that killed former Army officer Taylor Force” and “publicly condemns such acts of violence.”

The most important and crucial portion of the bill requires

“payments for acts of terrorism against U.S. and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual,”

be terminated immediately.

Each year, American taxpayers sends more than $350 million in foreign aid directly to the Palestinian Authority, the most generous of any country in the world. An additional $95 million is shelled out after being funneled through the U.N. That money is then used to pay the families of terrorists to carry out terror attacks, which inevitably encourages violence.

Over the past four years, the Palestinian Authority has paid more than $1 billion to terrorists and their families. Terrorists who survive after conducting attacks are paid a salary. The more years spent in prison, the higher it is. They’re also given jobs inside the Palestinian government.

“As long as the Palestinian government is in effect rewarding terror, we need to be sure we make our objections [and] condemnation known, and that cannot be merely in words. Our assistance program must reflect our feeling of repugnance,” Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for the Middle Eastern Studies, recently testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We need to send a clear message to the Palestinian people and leadership that we find the current system unacceptable and in fact repugnant. We need to be sure that our aid money does not even indirectly sustain that system. We should do this as a matter of principle,” he continued.

The White House has also taken note of the issue and is applying pressure for the payments to be stopped as part of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“President Trump stressed the importance of creating an environment consistent with the desire for peace,” a read out of a May meeting between President Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem states. “President Trump and President Abbas agreed to continue their discussions on the issue of payments to Palestinian prisoners and the need to improve the Palestinian economy.”

The State Department and Secretary Rex Tillerson are also pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end the practice.

“We’ve taken the position to the Palestinian Authority in a very unequivocal way: You either take care of this yourself or someone else will take care of it for you,” Tillerson said during testimony in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June. “We have been very clear with them that this is simply not acceptable to us.”

It’s time for lawmakers to honor Taylor Force, an American hero, and his family by passing legislation introduced in his name aimed at stopping terrorism. Innocent lives are counting on it.

Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.

Attack ad targets Cory Booker for voting against Taylor Force Act

Right-wing Committee for Israel goes after New Jersey senator who was among four to oppose bill cutting PA funding

By Eric Cortelessa, Times of Israel
September 07, 2017

WASHINGTON — A right-wing pro-Israel group in the US is turning up the heat on New Jersey Senator Cory Booker for not supporting legislation that seeks to slash funding to the Palestinians Authority until it cuts off salaries to terrorists.

The Committee for Israel released an attack ad on Wednesday targeting the Democrat for voting to block the Taylor Force Act from advancing to a vote on the Senate floor.

The ad, titled “Under the Bus,” invokes widespread speculation that Booker [above] is mulling a run for president in 2020.

“Stabbings, shootings, suicide bombings. Israelis and Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, and we’re paying for it,” the narrator says. “Finally, Democrats and Republicans are coming together to stop it.”

At that point, b-roll footage shows Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, standing with Senator John McCain, a Republican of Arizona.

“But not Cory Booker. He ran here as a friend to Israel. Just four years later, he’s eyeing a run for president and throwing Israel under the bus. Call Booker. Tell him we noticed.”

The television spot will start airing Wednesday night in the New York and Philadelphia markets.

Booker was one of four lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against the measure, which passed in August with the support of 17 others. Other lawmakers voting against included Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

The law would cut US funding to the PA until Ramallah stops paying stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families. It is named for a US army veteran killed in a 2016 stabbing attack in Jaffa.

Booker said afterward he was swayed by indications that Israeli officials did not support the measure, fearful that it could squeeze PA President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Israel co-operates in the West Bank on security matters.

“There have long been mixed signals and conflicting recommendations from both US and Israeli national security officials about whether the bill would achieve its desired ends without worsening the security situation,” Booker said in a statement explaining his vote.

He went on to say he hopes his concerns about the bill are addressed “quickly and well before the full Senate considers this legislation, so that this bill can receive my support,” indicating he could vote in favor of a modified version down the road.

The version that passed the committee was itself a modified version of the original bill, which only won support from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC after it was marked up to protect security funding from cuts.

Israeli officials have denied they do not support the bill and similar legislation has been introduced in the Knesset.

Politico reported that the Committee for Israel, formerly known as the Emergency Committee for Israel, was also planning to finance print ads in New Jersey’s Jewish newspapers attacking Booker, while quoting Schumer and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democratic from Maryland, both of whom back the legislation.

Established in 2010 by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, the neo-conservative group adamantly defends the US-Israel relationship and other hawkish positions on US foreign policy. It launched a vigorous ad campaign in 2015 opposing the Iran nuclear deal and mounted numerous attacks on former president Barack Obama’s defense secretary Chuck Hagel during his nomination process.

Booker is known for his deep ties to the Jewish community. While a student at Oxford University, he frequented the Chabad house, where he became friends with Shmuley Boteach, now a prominent right-wing Orthodox rabbi.

After Booker’s August vote against the bill, Boteach published an op-ed in The Hill lamenting his decision.

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