The Republican-led House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday that would restrict the annual financial aid of $300 million to the Palestinian Authority until it takes steps to end what lawmakers described as payments of rewarding Palestinians who kill Americans and Israelis.
The legislation, which passed by voice vote backed by the Taylor Force Act, named after a 29-year-old an MBA student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and a West Point graduate who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was fatally stabbed by 21-year-old Palestinian while visiting Israel last year.
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The measure reflects bipartisan outrage over what members of Congress have called a “martyr payments,” or “pay to slay” program, which can reach $3,500 per month.
“This perverse ‘pay-to-slay’ system uses a sliding scale. The longer the jail sentence, the greater the reward. The highest payments go to those serving life sentences – to those who prove most brutal,” said Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, before the vote.
The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, said the so-called martyr payments are “downright disgusting” and undermine the potential for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
To become law, the measure must also be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Donald Trump. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a separate version of the Taylor Force bill in early August, but there was no immediate word on when the Senate might take up the bill.
Palestinian officials have said US lawmakers are misguided about a program that supports families who lose their breadwinners.
The US government financially supports the Palestinians in a variety of ways, including paying certain debts held by the Palestinian Authority and underwriting programs for which the Palestinian Authority would otherwise be responsible, according to the House legislation.
The bill states US money may only be made available if the State Department certifies the Palestinians are serious about ending “acts of violence against Israeli citizens and United States citizens that are perpetrated or materially assisted by individuals under their jurisdictional control.”
On Tuesday, Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, changing decades-old U.S. policy, despite the Palestinians’ desire to have their capital in East Jerusalem.
Trump’s fellow Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate.
The Palestinian Authority is also required to revoke any laws or regulations authorizing the payments to terrorists or their families and must publicly condemn the acts of violence, according to the bill.