President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “One way to make sure crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.” Reagan wasn’t referring to the Palestinian Authority, of course. The Ramallah-based rulers of the West Bank have turned crime into a lucrative state enterprise. For nearly thirty years, the Palestinian Authority has paid lavish salaries to imprisoned terrorists and rewarded the families of suicide bombers with generous stipends.
The practice is even more abhorrent considering that much of this blood money comes to the Palestinians courtesy of the US taxpayer. President Donald Trump put an end to all American subsidies to the Palestinians, not wanting Washington’s benevolence to be destined for the bank accounts of killers. But now, a month into his administration, President Joe Biden has assessed that resuming US aid to the Palestinian Authority is an American imperative. Not one cent should ever find its way into the hands of those with blood on their hands.
The Palestinian Authority, or PA, was formed in 1994 as a byproduct of the Oslo Peace Accords. The newly formed Palestinian government took over the Gaza Strip and the large cities in the West Bank as the first step toward ultimate statehood and a lasting peace with Israel. To make the transition from a terror group to statesmen a smoother one, the United States has donated more than 5 billion dollars to the PA since its inception, money earmarked for security, economic development, and the betterment of the Palestinian people. The aid money was often donated without much accountability, and endemic corruption ensued. Instead of distributing desperately needed assistance, Palestinian leaders became millionaires while their people languished in poverty.
But the aid money wasn’t only stolen, it was used to fund terror factions and bankroll the Second Intifada, which killed over a thousand Israelis. The families of men and women who blew themselves up on buses and inside cafés received generous lifetime pensions from the PA, money that, after all, came from the generous American people; terrorists who were serving lengthy sentences in Israeli prisons also received monthly paychecks for a job well done. The PA Martyr’s Fund doled out the bundles of cash after an act of terror has been committed. The practice continues to this day.
Successive Israeli governments complained to whoever would listen inside the US government that aid money to the PA was being used for nefarious means. But although the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations knew that the PA was rife with graft, they feared that ending the humanitarian aid would weaken the PA to the point where it would collapse, and be an open invitation for Hamas and Iranian-backed Islamic fundamentalist terror groups to take over the West Bank.
That logic held until March 2016, when a Palestinian terrorist on a wild stabbing spree near Tel Aviv fatally stabbed Taylor Force, a West Point graduate, US Army veteran, and Vanderbilt University student visiting Israel. On the day that Force was killed, then Vice-President Joe Biden was a couple of miles from the crime scene, meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv.
Although Israeli police shot and killed the perpetrator, his family didn’t have to worry. The Palestinian Authority took care of them as a reward for the heinous act and his “martyrdom.”
The murder of Taylor Force and the PA’s financial reward to the killer’s family pushed American lawmakers over the edge. Three senators introduced legislation that would cease American economic assistance to the PA until it stopped paying those guilty of terror crimes and the next of kin of dead terrorists. New York Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “The values of the Palestinian Authority incite violence, reward terrorism, and inspire hate. In stark contrast, Taylor Force embodied the values of our great nation — service, commitment, and the willingness to sacrifice for what we know is right.”
President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act on March 23, 2018. He also cut off American aid to the PA and closed its diplomatic mission in Washington because the Palestinian leadership had not taken sincere and construction steps to enter direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.
Although Morocco, Sudan, the UAE, and Bahrain have inked historic diplomatic agreements with Israel, the Abraham Accords sidestepped the Palestinian issue and President Biden still believes that peace in the Middle East runs through Ramallah and not the rest of the Arab world. The Biden administration removed the padlock from the Palestinian mission in DC, and resumed aid to the PA, going out of its way to guarantee that the aid earmarked for the Palestinians would be in full compliance with the Taylor Force Act. But American lawmakers opposed Biden’s move. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, stated, “The resumption of any US foreign assistance that indirectly funds the Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay terrorist program would violate US law, betray our Israeli partners, and put Americans living in or visiting Israel in harm’s way.”
President Biden’s actions depend on the wishful thinking that American oversight will ensure the Palestinian Authority keeps its word and doesn’t reward terrorists who maim and kill. But the PA has made promises before and murderers and their families still receive hefty compensation for their deeds. If America is back, as Biden pledged, then terrorism must never be rewarded.