State Dept Backs Taylor Force Act

WASHINGTON – After initially expressing skepticism, the State Department noted on Thursday that the “Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act.” In July, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones told Congress, “It is not clear that the Taylor Force Act as currently drafted would help accomplish these objectives (combating terrorism).” Jones touted at the time that for the first time in 52 years, the Palestinian Authority had cut stipends to 277 Hamas affiliated prisoners.

However, Thursday’s statement represents a shift in tone by the State Department, which noted that the legislation is a “consequence of Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization’s policy of paying terrorists and their families.” The State Department’s new rhetoric perhaps was impacted by a recent amendment to the legislation that was attached to the 2018 Foreign Operations Budget approved by the Appropriations Committee earlier this month.

A previous version of the bill that passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August offered ambiguity regarding U.S. funding for Palestinian humanitarian programs. Yet, the updated Appropriations Committee legislation 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 some Senate Democrats — including Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR)  — who were concerned about the impact of cutting off U.S. aid to Palestinians not involved with committing acts of terrorism.

In February, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the legislation that would end all U.S. economic assistance to the P.A. until payments to Palestinian families of terrorists’ end. The bill gained solid bipartisan support with six Democrats joining all Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 17-4 vote. The legislation is named after a former US Army veteran, Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa while visiting Israel.

“President Trump raised the need to end any part of this program that incentivizes violence against Israeli and American citizens with President Mahmoud Abbas last May in both Washington and Bethlehem. The administration is closely following the progress of the legislation and looks forward to working with Congress as it takes its final form,” the State Department official added, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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