Exclusive: Taylor Force Act Could Hinder Greenblatt’s Water Deal
WASHINGTON – The passage of the Taylor Force Act in its current form would bar U.S. participation in the water agreement trumpeted by senior Trump administration official Jason Greenblatt last month, an informed Congressional staffer told Jewish Insider on Thursday.
“The bill, if enacted as passed out of Committee, would halt any assistance that ‘directly benefits’ the Palestinian Authority. American technical assistance to the Red-Dead water agreement is supporting the PA, the Government of Israel, and the Government of Jordan… or to be more specific their ministries of water,” the Congressional aide explained. “So, yes, U.S. assistance to this project falls under directly benefiting the PA, and would not be able to continue.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed legislation on Thursday that would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists. Some Democrats tried amending the legislation to offer exemptions for U.S. assistance to Palestinian water, public health, and economic programs, but those measures were defeated. Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) explained that these exceptions were added, “you basically gut the bill” and make the legislation “useless.”
At a press conference last month at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Greenblatt heralded the water agreement as “an example of what can be achieved when the sides work together.” In the leaked recording of White House Senior advisor Jared Kushner’s talk to Congressional interns earlier this week, the President’s son-in-law also cited the water deal as one of the top two accomplishments of the Trump administration in advancing peace.
“There is no national security waiver or exception for water projects in the bill, so the Secretary has no discretion and yes, this kind of assistance would no longer continue.” the Congressional staffer added.
The confusion was compounded by a meeting yesterday between the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffers. Aides were trying to discern whether the Trump administration believed that the Taylor Force Act would also cut humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians because of the ambiguity of the language that funding be restricted to programs that “directly benefit the Palestinian Authority.”
The Congressional staffer claimed that the meeting was an “insult” to the Senate oversight committee (SFRC) with the State Department attempting to “obfuscate, undermine and delay.”
A State Department official told Jewish Insider, on condition of anonymity, “The Department often has informal discussions on technical aspects of legislation with Congressional staff. The Administration looks forward to continuing discussions with Congress on this bill as it moves forward.”
When asked for comment, a White House official did not directly address the water agreement but said the following about the Taylor Force Act in general: “The administration has made clear its position on payments to terrorists and their families. We will continue to work with Congress as this legislation proceeds to ensure it both encourages the PA to end the payments and supports our efforts to advance peace.”