The US must hold Palestinians responsible for terror

The long-overdue passage of the Taylor Force Act addresses a well-known fact about the Palestinian Authority that has been overlooked by policymakers and under-reported by international media for decades: The PA is a terror-sponsoring entity. The “pay-to-slay” policy is backed by the force of law and specific budgetary allocations.

A five-year prison sentence for men convicted of terrorism-related charges in Israeli courts, and a two-year sentence for women, earn a lifetime annuity. Right now there are 6,500 such prisoners.

How does the Taylor Force Act make the PA accountable and end this travesty? The law sets down very specific, transparent markers to ensure that the PA complies before it can receive US taxpayer funds. This is necessary, because the PA has a habit of making superficial changes that leaves its pay-to-slay system intact.

For example, in 2014, Palestinian Media Watch noted that when pressure was put on the PA to stop paying terrorists, it shut down the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. But then it announced that it had created a new PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs. The head of the PLO commission was Issa Karake, who had been the PA’s Minister of Prisoner Affairs, and the ultimate authority for the new commission lay with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. With the name change, Abbas could claim that the PA was no longer paying terrorists, while the mechanism for doing so didn’t change at all.

The Taylor Force Act addresses any such subterfuge. It instructs the secretary of state to issue reports of payments to terrorists or their families by the “Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations.”

PA Secretary-General Ali Abu Diyak stated in December 2015 “that the government is obligated to pay the needs of Martyrs’ families, and the needs and salaries of prisoners in the Israeli occupation’s prisons, and released prisoners, according to the law.”

Again, Taylor Force addresses PA claims that it has no choice but to pay because it’s the law. It requires the PA to show it has “revoked any law, decree, regulation, or document authorizing or implementing a system of compensation for imprisoned individuals that uses the sentence or period of incarceration of an individual imprisoned for an act of terrorism to determine the level of compensation paid.”

Following its passage in March, the PA’s envoy to the United States, Husam Zomlot, said it “punishes” the Palestinian Authority, which he then described as “the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.”

Thanks to the new law, the State Department is obligated to produce periodic reports that detail how US assistance is spent by the PA and share them with relevant congressional committees, which have the authority to decide if payments to the Palestinians should be cut. It’s exactly that kind of scrutiny, followed by real consequences should Congress determine the law has been violated, that’s been missing.

In two weeks, on May 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to report to Congress what US funding will be cut in response to Palestinian violations.

On Sept. 19 (and annually on this day for the following six years), the State Department must report to Congress Palestinian terror payments, Palestinian laws that benefit terrorists and efforts to get other countries, as well as the United Nations, to also cut PA funding.

A month later, the State Department must again certify steps the PA is taking to correct the violations for which it’s been penalized.

The idea that the PA is committed to “peace and nonviolence” even as it incentivizes terror is one of the contradictions that explains why 25 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords there is still no final Israeli-Palestinian peace.

If the Taylor Force Act compels the Palestinians to change their behavior in a verifiable fashion, it might be the first step toward real accountability, the lack of which provides little incentive for PA leaders to change the status quo or negotiate in good faith.

Sander Gerber is CEO of Hudson Bay Capital Management. IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Jerusalem Center’s Project on Regional Middle East Developments.

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