It's called the Taylor Force Act, and it's scheduled to come up for a vote
soon in the U.S. Senate. Here's the quick background:
You've read here and on FLAME's website about the Palestinian Authority's
practice of financially rewarding Palestinian Arab terrorists who
attack and murder innocent Israelis and other non-Muslims.
You probably recall the terrorist murder in Jaffa, just outside of Tel
Aviv, of Taylor Force, a U.S. citizen and West Point graduate who
was strolling with his wife on a vacation in Israel.
The Palestinian who killed Taylor Force is now receiving a salary—paid by
the Palestinian Authority (via the PLO)—that is several times that
of the average Palestinian worker.
Over the past four years, the P.A. has paid more than $1 billion to support
terrorists and their families—about $250 million a year. Some unemployed
Palestinians have admitted to committing or trying to commit terrorist
murders expressly for the purpose of gaining a P.A. terrorist's pension. The worse the crime committed by
the terrorist, the greater his compensation via the P.A.'s "Martyr's Fund."
In August, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved—by a vote of
17-4—the Taylor Force Act, which would cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians in the amount the P.A. pays out in
terrorist salaries. Most importantly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
and President Trump support the act.
Now it's time for us to reach out to our U.S. Senators and strongly urge
them to vote for the Taylor Force. We don't want the final vote to be a squeaker—it must have strong
support from both parties. I'll make it easy for you to help ensure that in
Second, I hope you'll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which
describes FLAME's long-running hasbarah campaign to stop the U.S. Congress from funding Palestinian
terrorism. (We've been on this issue for more than six months.)
Third, please email and call your U.S. Senator immediately—do it right
now, if possible—to encourage their vote for the Taylor Force Act when
it comes up for a vote. Go right now to the
U.S. Senate directory
and choose your state: Your Senators, as well as their email address
and phone numbers will appear. Please use both—it's one thing you can do to support Israel now.
Consideration of the Taylor Force Act
By Elliott Abrams, Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate
1st Session, 115th Congress, July 12, 2017
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
Thank you for the honor of appearing before you today to discuss the Taylor
Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s,
U.S. assistance has totaled more than $5 billion. In recent years, aid from
the Economic Support Fund (ESF) has amounted to over $300 million per year.
Those figures do not count assistance we give through the United Nations
agency UNRWA, which is now approaching $6 billion since that organization's
founding. The United States is the largest donor to Palestinians, year
What's the problem that led to introduction of the Act, and leads to this
hearing? It is the Palestinian practice of making payments to individuals
convicted of acts of terror, and their families or survivors, in accordance
with the severity of their acts and the length of their sentences. The
predictable effect of this practice is to reward and incentivize acts of
The length of sentences of course reflects the gravity of the crimes that
have been committed. Accordingly, the more harm you do, the more money you
and your family get. There are cases of unemployed and desperate men who
commit acts of terror in order to get these payments—which can amount to a
permanent government salary. Inevitably, the Palestinian government and
society are by this scheme glorifying and honoring acts of violence, no
matter how depraved. They are rewarding terror. There's no way around that
conclusion. And it does not really matter whether the payments are formally
made by the Palestinian Authority or the PLO.
Nor, I would add, does it matter what the original intention of these
I have heard it argued that the original goal was just to assist prisoners
while in prison and take care of their dependents, and to assist them in
readjusting and reintegrating after serving their sentences. But when you
give assistance in accordance with the severity of the crime committed, the
effect is unavoidable: to incentivize and reward acts of terror.
These are not welfare payments. I had hoped that, in the face of this
controversy and the prospect of a reduction in American assistance, the
Palestinian leadership under President Abbas would adopt a system of
welfare payments. That is, payments to prisoners, families, and survivors
would be based on the number of dependents—the number of individuals being
helped. Such a system would be acceptable to us, I think, and here in the
United States we understand that the families of prisoners in our
correctional institutions must be eligible for general assistance—welfare,
Medicaid, food stamps, and so on. But the Palestinian leadership appears to
have rejected that approach. And according to the most recent poll I have
seen, so do the Palestinian people (although of course the exact question
asked may have affected the outcome).2
So that escape route from our problem is not open. Another proposed escape
route is to cut all funds but allow a national security waiver.3
I oppose that suggestion, because it achieves almost nothing. Congress
would be handing the problem to the administration without actually having
any impact on the Palestinian practice of paying terrorists for their acts.
There are other suggestions. Some argue that we should simply look the
and allow this to continue because many Palestinians would suffer from cuts
in U.S. assistance. In Israel, there has long been a concern that cuts in
aid to the Palestinians would lead to disorder in the West Bank or even the
collapse of the Palestinian Authority.
These are all reasonable concerns, but in my view they do not outweigh the
logic behind the Taylor Force Act: as long as the Palestinian government is
in effect rewarding terror, we need to be sure we make our objections—our
condemnation—known, and that cannot be merely in words. Our assistance
program must reflect our feeling of repugnance.
How do we do that? Since the Hamas victory in legislative elections in
2006, USAID has distinguished between assistance to the Palestinian
Authority and aid to other recipients, such as NGOs and municipalities. In
my view, all the payments that give assistance to or directly benefit the
P.A. itself should be stopped. Some of those payments no doubt support good
programs and worthwhile goals, but money is fungible. So the payments must
stop. I believe this would cut our assistance roughly in half, but there is
a context here. Considering the very great pressure on the foreign
assistance budget right now, how could we justify continuing all these
programs and payments to the Palestinians, while they continue to use money
to reward terror? Surely the money can be better spent elsewhere. Moreover,
these huge expenses on prisoners who have committed acts of terror are not
the only example of P.A. financial mismanagement. A poll taken last year
found that 95.5% of Palestinians think the P.A. is corrupt, and that was
the highest rate ever.4 Given the amounts of U.S. assistance,
the whole issue of P.A. financial management and mismanagement should get a
good deal more attention.
Why not cut every cent right now? That step would have a greater
to be sure, but might directly affect people or programs unrelated to the
Palestinian Authority and its payments for terrorism. The Taylor Force Act
would, in any event, require a determination that the P.A. is taking
credible steps to end acts of violence by individuals under its
jurisdictional control. I don't see how that certification could be made if
the P.A. continues to pay for terror. Moreover, cutting payments in half,
or thereabouts, would show the Palestinian leadership that Congress is
serious about ending aid unless this intolerable situation is changed. That
would make it more likely that the issue might be addressed. If it is not,
you can come back in three or six or nine months and cut some more, or cut
everything. Ideally, during such a period there could be discussions
between the P.A., Israel, and American officials, and the scaled payments
that reward greater acts of violence and terror could be eliminated. If
not, the Palestinians will in any event have been warned what is coming.
I want to deal with one other issue, which is that about $75 million in aid
is paid to cover debts owed directly to suppliers of power (which is most
of the $75 million) and to hospitals, reducing amounts owed to them by the
Palestinian Authority. Cut those payments, it is said, and you just hurt
the suppliers of power and of medical care. I would make an exception for
those hospitals, which account for perhaps a fourth of the $75 million in
debt reduction payments. In fact, by far the largest part of the medical
payment is to Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, and I would not wish
to see it cut off.
Power is different. There our money does not support a renowned and
venerable institution like Augusta Victoria. In fact, for obvious reasons
it encourages a kind of corruption. There are cases where commercial users
of power in the West Bank simply don't pay their power bills, because
everyone knows the Americans will cover the bills from our aid budget and
send checks to the Israeli companies. The current system really encourages
irresponsible behavior. We all watch our power consumption in our homes and
businesses because we pay the bills. But we now underwrite a system for the
West Bank where the United States pays the bills, not the users, and that's
not smart—and not worth continuing in the context of the Taylor Force Act,
the need to confront Palestinian rewards for acts of terror, and the
competition for scarce U.S. assistance dollars.
Mr. Chairman, we should not be under the illusion that passage of this
and a large cut in aid to the Palestinians will immediately solve this
problem. We should not expect that the Palestinian leadership will quickly
react by ending their rewards for terrorism. We can hope that they will
address this issue, and in negotiations with Israel and the United States
come to an agreement—but that may very well not happen. I think you should
pass this legislation nonetheless. 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—frankly, whether the Palestinians like it or not, and whether
the Israelis like it or not.
I wish we had done it years ago, including the time I served in government.
We all may have had the excuse then that we weren't exactly clear about the
facts, and indeed the facts and implications and reverberations are
complex. But the moral point is crystal clear, and now is the time to act.
Thank you for permitting me to testify today.
1 U.S. Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign
Aid to the Palestinians, by Jim Zanotti, RS22967 (2016), 2,
2 "Public Opinion Poll No. 64," Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research, July 5, 2017, http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/692.
3 Daniel Shapiro and Ilan Goldenberg, "For U.S. Aid to the Palestinians,
Don't Use a Sledgehammer When a Scalpel Would Do," Foreign Policy, June 29,
4 Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh, "In Tough Times, Most Palestinians
View Government as Corrupt," Associated Press, May 24, 2016,
The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional positions on
policy issues and has no affiliation with the U.S. government. All
statements of fact and expressions of opinion contained herein are the
sole responsibility of the author.