One of the issues in the 2020 US presidential campaign was an alleged program by Russian military intelligence to pay bounties to Taliban guerrillas for killing American and other NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. Media outlets claimed that the US intelligence community had brought this allegation to the attention of certain Trump administration officials with “low to moderate confidence.” Russian spokespersons repeatedly denied that such a program ever existed.
Then-candidate Joe Biden criticized Trump for “fail[ing] to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law.” So did Congressional Democrats and even some Republicans.
Contrast that with the situation in the Middle East. There is “100% confidence” that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has long rewarded terrorists for killing not just Israeli soldiers but also civilian men, women, and children. Not with a one-time bounty, but with a monthly stipend and other benefits for as long as the terrorist is in prison or indefinitely to the family if the terrorist died. Not secretly, but pursuant to codified PA law. PA spokespersons and President Mahmoud Abbas himself not only don’t deny it, they call it a “sacred duty.”
In 2016, Taylor Force, a West Point graduate and US Army veteran, was in Tel Aviv as a tourist when he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Taylor was neither Israeli nor Jewish. His murderer, who also wounded 10 other people, was chased and shot dead by the police. The killer was celebrated as a “heroic martyr” by the Palestinians, and his family began receiving monthly payments from the PA.
In 2018, in reaction to this abhorrent “pay-for-slay” scheme, the US Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, which halted American funding to the PA, with the exception of a few minor humanitarian projects, until it “terminated payments for acts of terrorism against US and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been fairly tried and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual.”
That same year, by an 87 to 15 vote, the Knesset approved similar legislation mandating the deduction of payouts to convicted Palestinian terrorists and their families from the tax revenues transferred by Israel to the PA under the terms of the 1994 Paris Protocol. In so doing, the legislators rejected a request by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to provide the security cabinet with the possibility of opting out of the deductions if deemed important.
That did not prevent the Israeli government, still under prime minister Netanyahu, from failing to impose the deductions in 2020, a decision that was rightly criticized by then-Member of Knesset Naftali Bennett: “[Netanyahu], [y]ou say you want to fight terrorism. The best way to do it is to dry it out and take away its money.”
In July, the new government under now-Prime Minister Bennett announced it would withhold, as legally required, $180 million in tax revenues it had collected on behalf of the PA. Nevertheless, only a couple of days after meeting with President Biden and conceivably at his “request,” Bennett agreed to “loan” $155 million to the PA, effectively sidestepping Israeli law. As a result, the PA’s slush fund for terrorists and their families has just been almost completely replenished, courtesy of the Bennett administration.
It is noteworthy that the loan subterfuge was reportedly concocted by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. The latter, as defense minister in 2018, was one of the sponsors of the very legislation he is now helping bypass.
The Israeli government’s willful disregard for the principles enshrined in its own law and in the Taylor Force Act is disrespectful of the Israeli and American legislators that took action against the PA’s sponsorship of terrorism. More importantly, doing so rewards and incentivizes terrorism – and as such, has and will cost lives. If the Israeli security establishment and government think otherwise, they ought to have the integrity to explain that and call for the lawful cancellation of those principles.