WASHINGTON – At a Hudson Institute luncheon on Wednesday, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked endorsed the Taylor Force Act, legislation introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to cut all US assistance to the Palestinians if payments to families of terrorists continue. The minister from the hawkish Jewish home party responded to a question regarding the Taylor Force Act, “We have been trying for many years to stop it (the payments). The Palestinian Authority funds murderers in Israeli jails and as long as you murder more, you get more money. I think President Trump and the Congress, if they will put pressure on it, I will say that the PA may not have a choice and they will have to stop it. Here definitely the United States can help us, and if this step will succeed, we will be very grateful.”
While introduced with much fanfare at a February press conference with Senators Graham and Tom Cotton (R-AK), the bill appears to have stalled with Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Bob Corker (R-TN) and top Democrat Ben Cardin (D-MD) both expressed concern to Jewish Insider about the measure’s conditions demanding a full severance of US aid to the Palestinians. Democratic Senator Menendez (NJ) signaled some openness towards the bill, but no hearing has been held at the SFRC on the legislation. The bill was introduced in the previous Congressional session, but never made it out of committee. At the same time, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Washington that the payments were raised during the meeting, but Trump himself did not mention the issue in his public statements.
The Israeli Justice Minister is scheduled to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington on Thursday.
At the beginning of the conversation on Wednesday, Hudson Institute President Ken Weinstein asked Shaked if she wanted to comment on the firing of FBI Director James Comey. However, the Justice Minister declined and said she prefered not to comment on “internal affairs.”
Shaked also appeared critical of Trump’s intense involvement to secure the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and reaching a final status peace agreement. “Every time there was a peace process and it failed, after that there was a terror wave. If you ask me, I think that if the President is talking about a deal, the economic deal can be much better.” The Jewish Home official also predicted that the Trump peace effort will fail, explaining that she is “realistic.” The gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians are too large, noting the divides over Jerusalem and refugees.
When asked about the BDS movement on certain American college campuses, Shaked noted that the campaign is not “against the settlements in Judea and Samaria. It’s against the existence of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state. They want Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state to vanish from the map.” The Justice Minister did express some optimism on the issue. Despite the boycotts, “If you look at the data, the economy of Israel is just growing and growing. They are losing in that field. They (the BDS activists) are in the campuses of the US but do not exist outside of the campuses. To put it in perspective, they are not succeeding in the courts nor in the economy.”