After amendment, Booker now supports Taylor Force Act
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Photo by Jacob Kornbluh
WASHINGTON – With a significant change in the latest version of the Taylor Force Act, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will now support the effort after an amendment was agreed to on Thursday by the Appropriations Committee, a Booker aide told Jewish Insider. The New Jersey lawmaker was one of four Democratic Senators to vote against the Taylor Force Act in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month.
According to section five of last month’s bill, all U.S. funding to programs in the West Bank and Gaza would end unless the Secretary of State could certify every 180 days that the Palestinian Authority is taking credible steps to stop violence against Israelis, in addition to ending all payments to terrorists and their families.
However, in an updated version advanced out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, and sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the text clarifies that the U.S. funding to the West Bank and Gaza would only be severed for assistance that “directly benefits the P.A.” Therefore, U.S. funding towards humanitarian projects assisting Palestinians would now be permitted, a key demand by Booker who was concerned about the impact of cutting off U.S. aid to Palestinians not involved with committing acts of terrorism.
Programs that will now be exempted include “Kids4peace” which connects Israeli and Palestinian children from West and East Jerusalem to celebrate religious diversity. Additionally, the “Olive Oil without Borders” project that builds economic cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians and encourages women-led businesses.
Earlier this week, the hawkish Committee for Israel launched an attack ad against Booker accusing him of “throwing Israel under the bus” for his vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Booker is considered a possible 2020 Presidential candidate.
Originally introduced in February, the legislation would cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists. Graham included the provision into the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill on Thursday. The bill is named after a former U.S. Army officer who was stabbed to death while participating in a study abroad program in Tel Aviv last year.
In a statement released last month, Booker explained his committee vote, “As recently as the day before the vote there was confusion among State Department officials over provisions in the bill and exactly what impact they would have on Israel’s security and the stability of the region.”
However, even the revised version of the bill faces other considerations. As Jewish Insider first reported, the U.S. will likely be unable to participate in the water agreement trumpeted by the Trump administration due to cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Given the scarcity of floor time in the Senate, it appears that the Taylor Force Act will go to the floor through the annual appropriations bill rather than in a standalone bill.