Today, a Palestinian kindergartener living in Ramallah is surrounded by messages that demonize and dehumanize Israelis, while glorifying violence against them. Leaving their house in the morning, this child sees billboards that pay tribute to suicide bombers. Arriving at school he or she will read textbooks that encourage the murder of Jews. In media and mosques, Palestinian leaders spew invective, describing Jews as “satans” and calling Israel a “cancerous tumor that needs to be eliminated.”
This is not a fertile environment from which the conditions for peace emerge. Seeds of peace are watered by tolerance and mutual understanding, when leaders communicate to their people the need to give up old hatreds and accept paths of compromise. Yet, instead of raising the next generation of Palestinian children to embrace peace, the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continue to lay the ground for further conflict and hatred.
The PA will devote some $344 million of its 2017 budget—which amounts to half of its foreign development assistance—to financially reward terrorists and their families. The budget allotment for rewarding violent acts is more than $100 million greater than the amount that the PA spends on welfare for Palestinians living under the poverty line. The welfare package for families of terrorists, incidentally, is higher than the welfare paid to impoverished Palestinian households, while the stipend for Palestinians held in Israel for violent acts is over four times the average salary in the West Bank. The priorities of the PA are laid bare by these discrepancies, and these priorities are clearly not peace.
The United States has a number of levers at its disposal to put an end to these practices. American taxpayers provide funding that is designed to support the development of Palestinian institutions—around $300-$500 million each year. Since its establishment in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has received more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance from the United States, including assistance for the PA’s security forces and criminal justice system.
In order to make sure these funds are used for their intended purpose, the U.S. Congress is now considering the Taylor Force Act, which is named after an American citizen and Army veteran murdered by a terrorist while on vacation in Israel. This necessary piece of legislation advances the prospects for peace by conditioning continued U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on the PA ending its policy of financially rewarding terrorists and their families. This would prevent hundreds of millions of dollars from incentivizing terror, so that these funds can be used towards the necessities of institutional development.
This summer, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, where I serve as Chairman, initiated a wide-ranging advocacy campaign to bring together a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in support of this legislation. Israeli-Americans know firsthand—from our personal experience, through our friends and families who live in Israel, and through our consumption of Hebrew-language news—why ending this practice is so important for peace. Yet, as taxpayers in the United States, we continue to fund it.
In unprecedented ways, the IAC for Action’s nationwide networks of grassroots activists and some of the most prominent and influential Israeli-Americans and Jewish-Americans in our community have been engaged with their elected officials in support of the legislation.
As a result of our work, the bipartisan group of lawmakers publicly supporting the Taylor Force Act—originally introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—has grown significantly. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) have introduced their own version of the bill, which will be marked up in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday and is expected to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Like the Israeli-American community, Congress understands that opposition to a rewards scheme for acts of terror by the PA is not a question of right or left, or Democrat or Republican. It is a question of right and wrong, of peace and terror. America can help move Israelis and Palestinians forward on the difficult path to peace by ending this subsidy for terror.