President Donald Trump’s straight talk about veneration of violence in Palestinian society has had important consequences. It was the catalyst for Norway and Denmark to disassociate from the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) habit of naming public spaces for terrorists. UNRWA, the Red Crescent (UAE), and the U.N. secretary general have all denounced various terrorist behaviors of both Hamas and the P.A. Whether they did it from conviction or are just moving in the direction they believe the president of the United States wants them to go is almost irrelevant – they’re going there.
However, when it comes to what the P.A. itself says, caution and a heaping tablespoon of salt are required. The P.A. fears that a key source of foreign aid – the U.S. government – is finally fed up with Palestinian behavior, both incitement, and payments, and may pull the plug. The House and Senate are considering the Taylor Force Act – which would require certification that the P.A.:
- Is taking steps to end acts of violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control, such as the March 2016 attack that killed former Army officer Taylor Force;
- Is publicly condemning such acts of violence and is investigating, or cooperating in investigations of, such acts; and
- Has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against U.S. and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual.
That’s good reason for them to worry, but the salt of skepticism was missing when U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson announced in a Senate hearing, “They [the P.A.] have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others. We have been very clear with them that this is simply not acceptable to us.”
He may have been clear, but Palestinian “intent” is a twisty, bendy thing, especially since the P.A. claimed that it had already stopped paying in 2014. If it stopped then, why does it have to “intend” to stop now?
Two months ago, I wrote for The Gatestone Institute:
Largely through the work of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the question of payments to terrorists and their families has come to the fore. Worried about foreign aid payments from the U.S. and the EU, in 2014 the Palestinian Authority claimed it stopped paying salaries and that future money would come from a new PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs. However, PMW reported from Palestinian sources:
“The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners; the former P.A. Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Karake, became the Director of the new PLO Commission and P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of the PLO Commission.”
Tower Magazine reported that in 2015, a year after the P.A. “officially” transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, it also transferred an extra 444 million shekels (more than $116 million) to the PLO — nearly the same amount that the P.A. had allocated in the previous years to its now-defunct Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.
Citing PMW, Tower wrote that the transfer to the PLO was meant to evade pressure from Western governments that demanded an end to terrorist salaries — specifically the United States and the UK, which froze payments to the P.A. in 2016 over the problem.
Money is fungible; law may be a different matter. In an enormously important article in Commentary, Douglas J. Feith and Sander Gerber looked at legislation passed by the Palestinian Authority governing the financial and social treatment of Palestinians convicted and jailed by Israel, as well as the families of those killed.
In short, the P.A.’s “Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law No. 19” mandates free tuition, health insurance, and professional training for Palestinians released from Israeli jail. It talks about salaries “linked to a cost-of-living index.” In 2013, according to Feith and Gerber, the law was amended to give released prisoners “priority in annual job placements in all State institutions.” There’s more.
It isn’t simply a matter of not issuing checks – it is how Palestinian society works. Will the P.A. stop offering jobs to released terrorists? Remove released terrorists from jobs they currently hold? Cut off tuition? Cut off families of dead terrorists?
Will it amend its laws?
The Taylor Force Act is a serious expression of American revulsion; Israeli and American victims of terrorism deserve no less. But it may be only the first step in actually affecting Palestinian behavior.