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Congress & the Middle East: The Taylor Force Act

(March 23, 2018)

Palestinians are the largest per-capita recipients of U.S. foreign aid. Since the Palestinian Authority pays stipends to convicted terrorists in Israeli jails and to the families of dead terrorists, American taxpayers have essentially subsidized support for Palestinian terror. After members of Congress learned the extent of the PA’s “pay-to-slay” policy, legislation was introduced to pressure the Palestinians to stop funding terrorists or lose American funding.

During the Obama era, U.S. payments to the Palestinians averaged around $400 million per year, including $363.6 million in 2016. In the final week of the Obama Administration, Secretary of State John Kerry authorized a $221 million transfer to the Palestinian Authority. Although the funds were subsequently frozen by the Trump Administration, many Republicans considered the money an indefensible subsidy for an evil regime.

The Taylor Force Act, labeled H.R. 1164 in the House and S. 474 in the Senate, was introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to stop such payments until Palestinian terrorists and their families are no longer paid. The legislation is named after Taylor Force, a graduate of West Point and a U.S. Army veteran of battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was murdered during a study trip with his fellow MBA students from Vanderbilt University when he was stabbed along with 11 other people in Jaffa by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016.

The act, which had overwhelming bipartisan support, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 5, 2017, and was signed into law on March 23, 2018, as part of a $1.3 billion spending measure approved by the House and Senate.

The act orders that U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza “that directly benefits the PA” be suspended unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority has met four conditions: terminating these payments to terrorists, revoking laws authorizing this compensation, taking “credible steps” to end Palestinian terrorism, and “publicly condemning” and investigating such acts of violence. The law includes exceptions to fund Palestinian water projects, childhood vaccination programs, and East Jerusalem hospitals.

In June 2018, it was disclosed that the United States froze aid to the PA pending review and that the West Bank and Gaza office of USAID – the American international development agency – has not received its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The freeze has also caused the suspension of certain programs run by international agencies that depend on American funding.

Israel will also deduct the amount of money that the Palestinian Authority gives to terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority after the Knesset passed the Anti-“Pay for Slay” bill into law on July 2, 2018.

The government of Australia also stopped giving direct aid to the Palestinian Authority due to concerns that the money is being used to pay Palestinian terrorists and their families.

Sources: GovTrack;
Eylon Aslan-Levy, “EXCLUSIVE: US freezes Palestinian aid budget,” i24 News, (June 26, 2018);
Gil Hoffman, “Historic Anti-Pay For Slay Bill Passes Into Law,” Jerusalem Post, (July 2, 2018);
“Australia ends direct aid to Palestinian Authority, citing payments to terrorists,” JTA, (July 2, 2018).