Herbert London: The Taylor Force Act

Dec 13, 2017

In an unusual display of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to reduce U.S. funding for the Palestinians unless official bodies stop subsidizing the families of killers.

The Taylor Force Act co-sponsored by Lindsay Graham, Dan Coats and Roy Blunt, was named in honor of Taylor Force, a West Point graduate who had served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was murdered while studying in Israel. By any stretch of the imagination, the stipends offer lavish incentives to commit violence.

The PA argues cynically that such payments relieve poverty. Alas they do. However, they do so at the price of murders. Would passage of the Taylor Force Act halt or add to terrorists?

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the U.S. has permitted the two key Palestinian organizations – the PLO and the PA – to get away with murder or, at least, with honoring murder. It is time for this scandalous behavior to end.

At the moment, terrorists who murder are honored with street names. In fact, the more egregious the crime, the more you get paid. Campsites, schools, clinics are named after so-called martyrs who kill innocent Jews.

This is arguably the most barbaric government policy on the globe since the crime of murder is endorsed by officials and U.S. taxpayers are partially responsible for underwriting the crime.

It is conceivable the act could have a salutary effect on President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA since it could open a pathway to an accord which might yield Palestinian jobs and opportunities. The PA has two ministries to deal with “pay to slay” arrangements with combined budgets exceeding $300 million in 2016. In fact, payments to “martyrs” dwarf the average monthly salary of an ordinary working inhabitant of the West Bank. De-incentivizing murder seems like the obvious thing to do.

The passage of this act came a day before President Trump conferred recognition of Jerusalem as the Israel’s capitol and a week after the State Department placed new restrictions on the activities of the Palestine Liberation Front. Trump spokesmen said his decision was a “recognition of reality.” They also noted that the decision would not have any impact on the future of boundaries as negotiated in a final status agreement.

Clearly the physical location of the American Embassy is not material to a future peace deal. But the back to back decisions on the Taylor Force Act and the Embassy represent the unequivocal Trump administration support for the state of Israel, a condition that has not been the case heretofore.

However, in the Middle East with a history of sanguinic decisions, the obvious isn’t always obvious. This time the House vote may break the logjam it may work, albeit optimism isn’t usually on the legislative agenda. Four Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are likely to vote against the measure, including Cory Booker who some consider the next Democratic presidential contender, but my guess is the measure will pass in the Senate nonetheless.

Agatha Christi wrote two novels and plays about murder. The outcome in every case turned out to be a surprise. In the case of the Taylor Force Act there aren’t any surprises. We know who the murderers are and why they do their evil deeds. Now it is time for this savagery to end and for the world to know murder of innocents will not be countenanced. 

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research,  a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

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