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” program, 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.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.