On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was on a school sponsored trip to Israel studying global entrepreneurship when he was brutally stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Force joined a long list of Americans (about 70) murdered by Palestinian terrorism since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
While Force’s family and friends grieved the loss of a true hero whose bright future was unfortunately cut short, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah party praised Force’s murderer as a “hero and martyr.” The PA has yet to condemn the terrorist attack and the murderer was given a hero’s funeral with thousands in attendance.
Although heart wrenching, the most horrifying part of the story is not the terrorist’s killing spree. It is the PA practice of incentivizing more blood loss and terrorism through its “pay for slay” program. Ron Prosor, Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN, frequently exclaims that “terrorism does not begin with an attack, that’s how terrorism ends. Terrorism begins when its perpetrators are incited with words and thoughts of hate.”
“Pay for slay” refers to the PA program of paying salaries and granting rewards to Palestinians, and/or their families, who carry out bombings, stabbings, shootings and other violent attacks against civilians, Israelis, Americans and tourists alike.
Although the PA program is neither secret nor hidden, it has received little public attention. “Pay for slay” merits a deeper look, not only because it incentivizes more terrorism, but also because U.S. taxpayer dollars fund the PA’s “incentives to terror” payments. “Pay for slay” is open and clear for all to see; it is codified in PA law and the PA has created bureaucracies dedicated to ensuring rewards for acts of terrorism.
PA Law No. 19 defines prisoners as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the fabric of the Arab Palestinian society” (Article 2). Thus, the law dictates that the PA must pay convicted prisoners (terrorists) with a monthly allowance, (Article 6) and once released from prison they receive preferential treatment and priority placement in all State institutions. They are also entitled to exemptions from payments for education, health care, and professional training (Article 5).
The salaries of prisoners’ are currently paid based on PA Government Decision No. 23 of 2010, which specifies the monthly allowance according to the length of the sentence. Payments range from $400 a month for terrorists who spend three or less years in prison and go up to $3,120 a month for terrorists spending 30 or more years in prison. Basically, the law dictates that the higher the crime, the higher the reward.
Basically, the law dictates that the higher the crime, the higher the reward.
The PA also provides prisoners with a monthly allowance for canteen expenses, totaling $780,000 per month. And if the terrorist is an Arab resident from Jerusalem or an Arab Israeli, they are paid a monthly bonus, $85 for residents of Jerusalem and $138 for Arab Israelis.
Once released from prison terrorists are given a one-time grant according to the length of sentence. Again, the more deadly the attack, the higher the reward; grants range from $1,500 to $25,000. In addition to the many financial incentives, the PA gives priority in job placement to people who were involved in terrorist activity. Those imprisoned for five years or more are entitled to a job in a PA institution. Convicted terrorists also receive an automatic promotion in military rank for members of the PA Security Forces and a promotion in employee grade for civilians (PA Government Decision No. 15). For example, a convicted terrorist serving 20 years will automatically become a general (members of the PA Security Forces) or a Deputy Minister’s Aide (civilians).
The Palestinians are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Since the mid-1990’s, the U.S. has given more than $5 billion to the Palestinians in foreign aid, $357 million in 2016 alone. However, rather than using this generous aid for its intended purposes—which according to Congress is to promote the prevention or mitigation of terrorism, foster stability, prosperity and self-governance, and towards meeting humanitarian needs—the PA invests in its “pay for slay’ program.”
In 2016, the PA dedicated over $303 million towards terror related salaries or allowances. This equates to about 7% of the PA’s overall budget, more than 20% of annual foreign aid, and about 84% of the the foreign aid given by the U.S. in 2016. This demonstrates either the Palestinians don’t need as much foreign aid as they are receiving, or they care more about supporting terrorism over development and self-governance.
In 2016, the PA dedicated over $303 million towards terror related salaries or allowances. This equates to about 7% of the PA’s overall budget, more than 20% of annual foreign aid, and about 84% of the the foreign aid given by the U.S. in 2016.
In 2014, the U.S. Congress, fed up with U.S. taxpayer dollars going towards terror incitement, passed a law to defund the PA if they continued to fund the salaries of terrorists. Following pressure from other donor countries as well, in May 2014, Abbas issued a presidential order that the PA had stopped the payments to prisoners. Instead, they would be disbursed by a PLO Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.
This is important because critics of the Taylor Force Act have used the argument that the PA abandoned “pay for slay.” The problem with this argument is that the PLO Commission is new only in name, but not in function. The PLO body has the same responsibilities, pays the same amount to prisoners and is based on the same PA decisions and PA law. The money for allowances still comes from the PA budget, just now it comes in the form of PA transfers to the PLO Palestinian National Fund, which openly states is for the purpose of payments to the imprisoned and released terrorists. The former PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, became the Director of the new PLO Commission; he remained in charge of prisoner payments just under a new job title. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of the PLO Commission.
Additionally, since money is fungible, any support the U.S. pays for the PA, frees up funds elsewhere that can then be directed to payments to prisoners and their families. U.S. law, Title 18 of the U.S. Code section 2339B, prohibits providing material support for terrorism and reflects a recognition of the “fungibility of financial resources and other types of material support.” For example, in 2015, a year after the PA “officially” transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, the PA also raised the amount it transfers to the PLO by $128 million. This is the same amount the PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs needed to take on the responsibilities of the PA “pay for slay” program.
A 2016 CRS Report explains the shift in responsibilities as a ploy designed “to defuse concerns among the PA’s international donors about perceptions that the donors might be indirectly associated with the prisoner-related payments.” It also confirms that “evidence indicates the formal change in the organization responsible for the payments did not significantly alter the actual practice of how the payments were made.” The PA is still entirely behind the program and continues to defy and deceive U.S. stipulations against “pay for slay” under a different name.
The PA is still entirely behind the program and continues to defy and deceive U.S. stipulations against “pay for slay” under a different name.
The U.S. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016—Assistance for the West Bank and Gaza, Section 7039(c)(1) prohibits any of the appropriated funds to be “made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism.” The Act stipulates the Secretary of State “shall terminate assistance to any individual, entity, or educational institution which the Secretary has determined to be involved in or advocating terrorist activity.”
Other donor countries have demonstrated frustration with the PA’s continued terror payments as well. In October 2016, the British government froze part of its aid to the PA over concerns it was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists. And in September 2016, the German government, for the first time, admitted the PA grants financial support to terrorists and their families and vowed further investigation.
Demands to halt payments to terrorists have been fiercely rejected. President Abbas has frequently stressed “the prisoners are top priority” and announced last week “‘even if I will have to leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary of a martyr (Shahid) or a prisoner.” Qaraqe called the payments “a national, social and humanitarian duty” because “those people, (prisoners) have sacrificed their lives for their people and the minimum we can do to them is taking care of their families.” However, the excuse that the payments are only to take care of prisoners’ families is utter bogus; if that were the case, the payments would be based on family size and not on the principal of the higher the crime, the higher the reward. In 2010, 63% of those imprisoned and receiving payments were single, yet they still received the same basic salaries as those with families.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas tells foreign audiences they oppose terrorism and are “raising our youth in a culture of peace,” while at the same time declares he will not compromise on “incentives to terror” payments or condemn the resulting terrorism. While Force’s family was forced to consider their finances to deal with funeral costs and arrangements, the family of his murderer was rewarded with a pension for life, amounting to three times the average yearly salary in the West Bank.
To solve this problem, both the House and Senate, led by Rep. Doug Lamborn and Sen. Lindsey Graham, introduced new legislation, appropriately called the Taylor Force Act, to stop taxpayer dollars from funding the PA until the State Department certifies the PA is: “taking steps to end violence…publicly condemning such acts of violence…and has terminated payments for acts of terrorism.”
Critics of the legislation have asserted cutting off Palestinian aid would destabilize the West Bank, however, it is important to note the Taylor Force Act would not affect U.S. security assistance to the PA, which remains separate from these funds.
Israeli legislation, similar to the Taylor Force Act, passed the Knesset on June 14, 2017. The Israeli bill imposes a dollar-to-dollar deduction in the amount of tax revenues Israel transfers to the PA based on the PA’s spending on terror payments.
Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its first hearing on the Taylor Force Act. Sen. Graham said: “This legislation shines a light on a very real problem. Why is the Palestinian Authority paying young Palestinians to commit acts of terror against innocent Americans like Taylor Force or Israelis? The Palestinians need to decide – do they condemn these horrible acts or do they reward them? You can’t be a partner in peace when you are paying people to commit terrorist acts. The choice the Palestinians make will determine the type of relationship they have with the United States in the years to come.”
Rep. Lamborn exclaimed his pleasure to support the Taylor Force Act because it “holds the Palestinian Authority accountable and exercises our Constitutional power of the purse. With this bill, we send a strong message to the Palestinian authority: you cannot encourage acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens or the United States and not expect consequences for these abhorrent practices.”