The U.S. and Israel scored a joint foreign policy win last week when the Palestinian Authority (PA) ended its months-long resistance to accepting money from which funds to pay terrorists and their families had been deducted.
In 2018, President Donald Trump passed the Taylor Force Act, denying funds to the Palestinian Authority as long as it used its budget to pay stipends to terrorists in Israeli prisons, or to families of terrorists killed by Israel. The Trump administration began canceling funds to the PA and, separately, to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which it blamed for perpetuating a Palestinian “refugee” problem that contributes to the conflict.
Israel passed a similar law regarding tax revenues collected by the Israeli government on the Palestinians’ behalf, and began implementing it in February 2019 to remove the incentive for what it called “pay-for-slay” policies.
The Palestinian leaders angrily denounced these laws and vowed not to stop the payments to terrorists and their families. PA President Mahmoud Abbas even rejected any funding from Israel that came with these conditions.
But last week, the PA capitulated and accepted tax revenues transferred by Israel — minus the estimated sums to be paid to terrorist. Theoretically, the PA still opposes the Israeli policy. Moreover, there is nothing to prevent it from spending funds budgeted for other purposes on terror payments instead. Still, it will not receive the full amount it would have received had it complied with straightforward U.S. and Israeli demands to stop subsidizing terrorism.
As Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus write in Palestinian Media Watch (original links):
As a show of his resolve to plunge the PA economy into the abyss, Abbas decided to cut the salaries of the PA’s law abiding employees by 40-50% while guaranteeing the payment, in full, of the salaries to the terrorists. The PA also stopped allowing Palestinians to receive medical treatment in Israel, under the false claim that Israel was deducting $100 dollars a year for this service. This ban did not apply to senior Fatah figures like Jibril Rajoub who continued to receive medical treatment in an Israeli hospital.
Abbas’ decision to accept the tax revenues, even though Israel continues to implement its anti-“Pay-for-Slay” law, reflects an understanding that all these goals have failed.
While the anti-“Pay-for-Slay” law has not yet caused the PA to abandon its “Pay-for-Slay” policy, the fact that the PA is accepting the reduced tax revenues is a good step in the right direction.
Hirsch and Marcus note that while the European Union did not cut its own funding to the PA, it accepted in principle the reason for cuts in U.S. and Israeli funding.
The U.S. is not resuming canceled aid to the Palestinians. President Trump said over a year ago that the Palestinians would not receive new funds until they agreed to a peace deal with Israel.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.