Before Congress adjourned today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taylor Force Act (S. 1697) on a bi-partisan basis with all Republican members voting. Most Democratic members voted for the measure with one amendment introduced by Virginia Democrat Sen.Tim Kaine to keep any impounded funds for the Palestinian Authority in escrow for a year beyond any sequestration action. Other Democratic members of the Committee who voted for the Act included, Ranking Member Ben Cardin (Md), Robert Menendez (NJ), Chris Coons (De) and Ed Markey (MA).
The Act is directed at withholding U.S.funds from supporting the Palestinian Authority “pay for slay” program providing monthly stipends to terrorists in Israeli jails or their surviving families.
Analysis of the Palestinian Authority budget for 2017 revealed that such payments accounted for half of foreign aid of $693 million, $345 million. The only exempted funding allowed is for humanitarian and security purposes.
The State Department is required to report to Congress every six months on compliance with the Act. The measure now moves to a vote of the full Senate following its return from the summer recess.
The Senate Committee approval of the Act was attacked by the Chief Palestinian Authority representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot. According to Ha’aretz Zomlot claimed it would ‘harm’ the flagging peace process with Israel. Absurdly, Zomlot said the ‘pay for slay’ funding program “provides for the security and well-being of its people” who live under Israeli occupation.
The legislation won the support of most major US Jewish organizations including AIPAC, that announced support two days before the scheduled vote. The Zionist Organization of America and the Orthodox Union were early supporters of the Taylor Force Act.
The eponymous Act is named for the late Taylor Force, a 29 year old West Point graduate and former US Army artillery officer, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan . He was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian terrorist at a restaurant in Jaffa, Israel on March 9, 2016. His surviving widow was severely injured in the attack. Force, a student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, was in Israel at the time with colleagues leaning about the dynamics of the country’s high tech start up entrepreneurship.
School Chancellor at Vanderbilt Nicholas S. Zeppos issued the following statement at the time of Force’s tragic death:
This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world, Taylor’s family and his friends and colleagues have our deepest sympathy and utmost support.
Should the full Senate follow suit and pass the law sending it on to President Trump for his signature it will be a living memorial aimed at stopping the incentive for Palestinians to commit violence heedlessly taking the lives of Israelis and visiting Americans like the late Taylor Force z”l of blessed memory.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.