WASHINGTON- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation Thursday that would cut off aid to the governing Palestinian Authority unless it halts indemnity payments to the families of Palestinians who have committed acts of terror against Israelis or Americans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who introduced the legislation now forwarded for a full Senate vote, said the measure represents a path toward “sanity in the Middle East.”
“If you’re a young Palestinian, maybe the best thing you can do for your family in terms of income streams is become a terrorist,” he said. “That’s sick. It’s inconsistent with peace.”
The payments are provided as part of a Palestinian Authority law establish in 2004 and revised in 2013.
The bill is entitled the Taylor Force Act, named for a 29-year-old Vanderbilt University graduate student who was stabbed to death in an attack in Tel Aviv in March 2016. Force had also served in the U.S. Army, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The assailant, Bashar Masalha, 22, wounded ten others before being shot and killed by Israeli police.
While the proposal would cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, it would not block other U.S. aid to Palestinians. According to the text of the bill, funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development would continue as long as the Secretary of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority “is taking credible steps to end acts of violence against United States and Israeli citizens that are perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control.”
The bill also exempts the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which Graham said provides treatment, including maternity care, to Palestinian women and children. Public health assistance, including funding for medicine, food and water, also would be exempt from a cutoff.
“What good is there in punishing women and children for something they did not do?” Graham said at a news conference on Thursday.
Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn., the committee chairman, said the proposed bill is “crisp and surgical” and is “meant to change the behavior of the Palestinian Authority.” He said it is “not intended to hurt the Palestinian people who have nothing to do with this law that’s been put in place by their government.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., voted against the measure. “While Senator Booker supports the stated goal of this bill, the legislation as written could have drastic unintended consequences in a volatile region, and actually make the security situation even worse,” a spokesperson for Booker said. Booker is hopeful the appropriate changes can be made before the measure is voted on in the Senate, the spokesperson said.
The proposal, originally introduced by Graham in September 2016, was approved by a committee vote of 17-4, including both Republicans and Democrats, a rare moment of bipartisanship. All eleven Republicans on the committee voted in favor and were joined by six Democrats.