Recently President Biden made a trip to the Middle East to visit both Israel and Saudi Arabia. In truth, the stop-off in Israel probably wasn’t meant to accomplish much, but Biden was forced to make sure he stopped, make some promises, shake some hands, and then move on. Why was he compelled to stop for a visit? Back in June of 2009, then-President Obama made a similar trip to the Mideast, first to Turkey, after which he flew straight to Egypt, bypassing Israel entirely. President Obama’s failure to stop for an official visit – as would have been expected if Israel was America’s greatest Mideast ally – was a glaring omission on the presidential travel itinerary, and wasn’t missed by the world press or Israel. Much ink was spilled voicing speculation about this apparent diplomatic snub. Instead of visiting a long-U.S.-allied nation, Obama flew straight to Egypt where he gave a speech at Cairo University titled, “A New Beginning” in which the U.S. president excoriated Israel in front of the Muslim world for her policies, miscasting Jewish and Israeli history to fit the Arab rejectionist narrative. Israel was furious not only at the snub, but at the ahistorical comments.
This time, Biden’s team wasn’t going to repeat Obama’s diplomatic faux pas and cause controversy in an election year. Instead, Biden landed at Ben Gurion Airport, where the Israeli leader of a caretaker government tried to make nice to an unpopular US president. And why is Biden unpopular with Israelis? For four reasons. First, Biden announced his plans during the election season to lift sanctions on Iran, a nation that poses an existential threat to Israel. Second, Biden promised to restore money to the Palestinian Authority, funds President Trump had previously cancelled due to Palestinian incitement to murder innocent Israelis. This reward money for murder is popularly known as the “Pay-to-Slay” policy. Third, Biden promised the Palestinians that the U.S. would re-open the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israel’s holiest city and Israel’s sovereign capital. Fourth, Biden reiterated U.S. support for a “Two-State Solution,” a diplomatic dead end in view of its repeated rejection by the Palestinian Authority.
The first issue, sanctions on Iran, seems to be taking care of itself since Biden can’t offer the Mullahs enough to get them to play, “Let’s make a deal.”
The third issue, opening a Palestinian consulate in the heart of Israeli’s capital needs the agreement of the Israeli government, which is not likely to happen in view of strong objections from the Israeli electorate. After 74 years of Palestinian terrorism, Israelis don’t want the PA claiming a foothold in their capital city, once half-occupied and ethnically cleansed by Arab armies. If the United States wants a “Palestinian” consulate opened, the proper address is Ramallah.
The fourth issue, “two states for two peoples,” won’t happen any time soon. Abbas was offered a two-state solution by President Trump, and he unequivocally rejected the offer, saying “No, a thousand times no!”
Biden’s current dilemma is fulfilling a campaign promise to restore funding to the Palestinian Authority when the law forbids it. Taylor Force was an American graduate student and army veteran visiting Tel Aviv as part of his university’s study group examining global entrepreneurship. His killer was a Palestinian terrorist from the West Bank city of Qalqilya who stabbed Force to death and wounded 11 others in his attack. The deceased terrorist’s family was rewarded with a lavish monthly stipend by the Palestinian Authority, well above the average Palestinian monthly income. This is part of the PA’s policy to incite its residents to murder and then reward the murderers killed or imprisoned for violent attacks on Israelis.
After the terrorist attack, in 2018, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, an act cutting off funds in order to cripple the incentivizing of terrorism using American taxpayer money. The Taylor Force Act unambiguously states that American funding would not be restored unless and until the PA stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families. It is a law that prohibits “certain economic support assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies that the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations:
- are taking steps to end acts of violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under their jurisdictional control, such as the March 2016 attack that killed former Army officer Taylor Force;
- have revoked any law, decree, or document authorizing or implementing a system of compensation for imprisoned individuals that uses the sentence or incarceration period to determine compensation;
- have terminated payments for acts of terrorism against U.S. 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;
- are publicly condemning such acts of violence and are investigating such acts.
The Palestinian Authority’s promise of enriched monthly stipends to the imprisoned or their families for acts of violence, coupled with a drumbeat of incitement to kill from official PA channels, is what is driving terror attacks against Israelis or anyone in Israel. Such lavish rewards are an attractive incentive for the poor, uneducated, and/or ideologically brainwashed who feel aggrieved by their economic situation. Today a Palestinian in debt, or angry that he can’t find work, finds a simple solution in becoming a murderer. Jobs are scarce in the PA since money is allocated by allegiance rather than need, so an act of terror not only gains family honor, but wealth, making the killer’s family financially stable or even well off for decades. For example, back on July 31, 2002, four terrorists bombed the student cafeteria at Hebrew University, killing nine people and injuring more than 100. The terrorists were found, arrested, tried, and convicted of the murders and are serving life sentences. On July 31, 2022, on the anniversary of their terror attack, they were notified that their monthly stipend would increase by 14 percent from $2,251 to $2,572 a month with an additional $96 added because they are residents of Jerusalem.
In 2020 the PA transferred 597 million shekels ($181 million) to the families of Palestinian terrorist prisoners and the families of deceased “martyrs.” The payment was made despite the PA’s claim of a severe budget deficit. In order to circumvent accountability and avoid sanctions, PA terror stipends are now made through ATMs in post offices, circumventing Israel’s order banning banks from handling accounts of terrorists and their families. To put these incentives in perspective, one must know what the average minimum wage is in the territories. Acts of terror are rewarded depending on the numbers of dead and injured Israelis. The more people killed, the longer the prison sentence, then the larger the stipend awarded to the terrorist and or his family.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the U.S. has given the PA billions of dollars, yet they are still claiming financial dependency. In 2016, the monthly salaries and benefits to terrorists in Israeli custody or if deceased, to the terrorist’s family, amounted to $300 million annually. Such lavish financial rewards clearly demonstrate the PA’s institutional commitment to sponsoring terror against Israel.
Was it necessary for Congress to pass the Taylor Force Act to end U.S. funding of terrorism? Yes. Because the United States has no interest in becoming an accomplice to Palestinian terrorism by funding the same.
Was the Taylor Force Act’s mandated cuts in aid to the PA effective in stopping or slowing Palestinian acts of terror? Yes. In 2020, the last year of President Trump’s presidency, a fiscal year when nothing was given to the PA, terror-related deaths decreased. Yet in 2021, the first year of the Biden presidency, President Biden and the State Department’s Ned Price announced that they would restore funding to the PA. Not surprisingly, PA “open season” on Israelis started anew, terror attacks increased, and the numbers of murdered Israelis rose. In 2022 from January to August, 19 more Jews have been killed, in slightly more than half a year. These numbers tell the tale; cut the funding for rewarding terrorism, and there is less terrorism; without the financial incentive to kill Israelis, there are fewer attacks.
Bewilderingly, Biden has made restoring funding to the PA a top priority of his administration. Since assuming office last year, the president has made good on his campaign promise to fund the PA. For example, on July 14th, the White House announced that it would give the Palestinian Authority $316 million in order to “restore relations between the U.S. and Ramallah.” This gift does not include $201 million to the UNRWA, in addition to already budgeted amounts, in order to restore services to the Palestinian people in order that—in Biden’s words—“they can live in dignity” for a total UNRWA pay-out of $618 million.
The entire point behind U.S. and European support all these decades for the Palestinian Authority was to help a proto-state transform itself into a functioning independent state with democratic institutions and become self-sustaining. It is time to rethink this. Instead of creating an independent democratic state, the Western powers have funded a warlord mafia controlled by an autocrat who oversees his oligarchy of loyalists, kept in power by their armed factions, enriching a select few and their extended families but leaving the majority of Palestinians in an oppressive police state with few options for individual advancement. The economy is stagnant, with tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking work in better-paid Israeli jobs; infrastructure is so poor that much of it is supported by Qatar, UAE, US Aid, or EU and Saudi funding. This is not “living in dignity” – this is going nowhere, with little hope for a free and economically stable society.
Billions have found their way into the Palestinian coffers since Oslo and nothing ever seems to get better. “Palestine” is essentially a welfare state, dependent on the largesse of foreign donors despite decades of money being poured into it. With such a circumscribed future, it is no wonder than some Palestinians, persuaded that killing Jews is both honorable and remunerative, resort to terrorism.
Is this good for the future of the Palestinian people? No. Acts of terror that are rewarded by the Palestinian state do not change attitudes in Israel for the better, but instead harden them, empower the political right, and mute the voices for dialogue and negotiation. Acts of terror will not end the occupation, will not strengthen a Palestinian government, will not aid the emergence of a viable Palestinian state in the future. Instead, they delegitimize the very idea of a Palestinian state, creating the impression that terrorism, ultranationalist or irridentist or religious, is rewarded by the governing authorities of the Palestinian people and that the world might be better off treating the PA as a rogue sponsor of terror, much as it treats Iran, Russia, and North Korea if it continues to encourage and reward terror and mass murder while spurning dialogue and negotiation.
According to laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who are convicted of terrorism are entitled to monthly stipends. Men who have served at least five years in Israeli jails, and women who served at least two, are entitled to these “salaries” for life. Those imprisoned for three to five years receive $570 per month. Someone sentenced to 30 years or more is entitled to $3,400 per month. The more heinous the crime, the more money a prisoner receives.
These are people who engaged in terrorism, murder, and attempted murder, while the PA refuses to fund infrastructure projects, modernize hospitals, or create jobs. This money allocated to killing Israelis increases annually, while Palestinians continue to live in “refugee camps” on the UNRWA dole, inside a Palestinian Authority that refuses to create a dignified, democratic, viable future for them.