US House passes bill to slash PA funds over terrorist stipends

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives passed on Tuesday the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it discontinues its practice of paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis.

Last month, the measure unanimously advanced out of committee, including three exceptions: allowing for US funding to Palestinian water and childhood vaccination programs, as well as East Jerusalem hospitals.

The bill must now pass the full Senate, which is expected to vote on it this month, when the upper chamber votes on a foreign operations bill it was packaged into last September. It is expected to pass.

US President Donald Trump has not yet indicated whether he would sign the bill into law, though a White House official told The Times of Israel in July that the president supports its principal objective.

Named after Taylor Force, a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016, the bill garnered bipartisan support through the House.

“We need to be clear about responsibility for this vicious attack,” said Ed Royce, a Republican from California who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The Palestinian Authority gives salaries to Palestinians who attack innocent people like Taylor. If the attacker dies, their family is compensated.”

“This system is a disgrace,” he went on. “It is also the result of an abiding climate of hatred Palestinians leaders continue to foster toward Jews and Israelis.”

Israel, too, has demanded that the PA stop paying these wages via intermediary organizations.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, for its part, has condemned the US legislation, saying that it is “unacceptable” and would violate Palestinians’ human rights.

The bill’s House passage comes just one day before Trump is set to give a speech in which he was expected to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a contentious move that would reverse decades of American foreign policy.

It has already provoked the ire of the Palestinian and other Arab leaders, who warned the president of an outbreak of violence.

These developments came as the Trump administration planned to ramp up its efforts to renew negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and attempt to strike the coveted-but-long-elusive accord.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been tasked with leading those peace efforts. The New York Times has recently reported that he and his team plan to announce their peace proposal in early 2018.

It is not yet clear how these latest moves by the American government will impact these attempts, but a Palestinian delegation met with Kushner on Friday, warning him that relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem, or formally recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital, would “kill the negotiations” and mark the end of the peace process.

Nevertheless, Kushner told a crowd at the Saban Forum this weekend, a premier Middle East confab held each winter in Washington, D.C., that he remained “optimistic that there is a lot of hope [on both sides] for being able to come to a conclusion.”


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