A signature piece of US anti-terrorism legislation is scheduled to be “marked up” by the House Foreign Affairs Committee next Wednesday, after several months of debate.
The Taylor Force Act – named after the former US army officer and war veteran murdered in a Palestinian stabbing attack in Tel Aviv nearly two years ago – conditions American taxpayer aid to the Palestinian Authority on a verifiable end to its “martyr payments” policy, dubbed by critics as “pay-to-slay.” The 28-year-old Force, a Vanderbilt University graduate student, had been visiting Israel as part of a school-organized spring break trip in March 2016 when he was caught up in the attack that left ten others wounded. Relatives of Force’s killer, Bashar Masalha, are among the beneficiaries of the PA’s payments policy.
Supporters of the legislation on Thursday warmly greeted news of the markup, which is scheduled for November 15.
“I’m pleased that the Taylor Force Act is going for markup on Wednesday,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus, told The Algemeiner.
“The issues at the heart of this legislation are of bipartisan concern, because Americans do not want their tax dollars subsidizing terrorism and murder abroad,” Lamborn – who introduced the Taylor Force Act in the House in February, after which it was referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee – said in an email.
News of the markup will help allay concerns in recent weeks that the legislation had become bogged down in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, after having passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 3 by a 17-4 majority. Lamborn said he was confident that his party colleague Rep. Ed Royce (CA), the co-chair of the Committee, would now “lead the Taylor Force Act from the Foreign Affairs Committee to the House floor, where a bipartisan majority will stop US tax dollars from funding Palestinian terrorism.”
A number of top Democrats are also backing the legislation, including Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (NY), who is a co-sponsor of the act, and Rep. Eliot Engel (NY), who co-chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee with Royce. At the time of Taylor Force’s murder, Engel declared that the outrage was “a wake-up call for all Americans,” adding that it was the “height of hypocrisy for Palestinian leaders to call murderers of US citizens ‘martyrs’ while American taxpayers lead the world in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people.”
Though details of proposed amendments in the House markup are yet to be released, they are understood to include some exemptions to an overall American freeze on PA funding, such as an ongoing clean water project involving Israel, the PA and the United States.
One long-standing supporter of the legislation asserted that concerns in Congress that the legislation would damage US-funded humanitarian assistance in the Palestinian territories were misplaced.
“The issue is not that we don’t support the needs of the Palestinians,” Dr. Michael Makovsky – president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in Washington, DC –told The Algemeiner. “We do, but the PA needs to stop supporting terror, and until it does so, we should stop aiding the PA incentivize and reward terror.”
Sander Gerber – a prominent Jewish philanthropist who was instrumental in bringing the PA’s payments policy to the attention of American legislators – said that he had been concerned by the “lack of action” in the House since February, given that “the Senate moved quickly.”
Gerber also cautioned against allowing too many exemptions into the final version of the act, saying that these would “just allow more money for PA payments to terrorists and their families.”
“There should be red lines for US foreign policy,” Gerber said. “Subsidizing terrorists crosses that red line.”
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner . Ben Cohen