- Washington Free Beacon - http://freebeacon.com -

Trump Admin, Congress Behind Effort to Cut U.S. Aid to Palestinians

The White House is signaling its support for a new congressional effort to cut all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority due to its continued support of terrorism against Israelis and Americans, according to senior lawmakers and senior White House officials.

Leading lawmakers in the House and Senate gathered Tuesday on Capitol Hill to introduce legislation that would cut all U.S. funding to the Palestinian government, which has been criticized for providing financial incentives to terrorists who kill American and Israeli civilians.

The White House signaled its support for the legislation in a vast departure from the Obama administration, which worked against similar efforts when in power.

A senior White House official familiar with the effort told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration welcomes this effort and will sign it into law if it passes Congress.

"The Palestinian Authority's use of its resources to provide material support for terrorism—indiscriminately targeted at American and Israeli civilians—is a grotesque example of how well-intentioned U.S. generosity can be turned against us," a senior White House official told the Free Beacon.

The legislation, which aims to tighten the financial noose on the Palestinian government and force it to abandon its practice of paying terrorists, is a first step to reforming the notoriously corrupt government, the official said.

"This legislation highlights practical steps the PA can take to demonstrate a real commitment to ending the vicious cycle of hatred and violence that has prevented the Palestinian people from the prosperity and security they could otherwise be enjoying," the official said.

The new legislative effort, titled the Taylor Force Act after an American who was killed in a Palestinian terror attack, cuts off all U.S. aid to the Palestinians as a direct response to its longstanding policy of paying salaries to terrorists and supporting those imprisoned for terrorist attacks.

"We can't continue to financially support a government who looks to the so-called martyrs schedule," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), who is spearheading the effort alongside Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.).

"It's an outrageous concept to be in law anywhere," Blunt said. "You can either stop doing what you’re doing or you won't have our money at least to do it with."

"We shouldn't allow killers and ruthless attackers to become recognized as martyrs in a system that we're part of," Blunt added.

The Palestinian Authority receives around $300 million in aid annually from U.S. taxpayers. Lawmakers backing the bill expressed concern that at least a portion of this money is funding the Palestinian government-backed policy of paying salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails.

"Most Americans have no idea this is a problem," Graham said. "Not only are Israelis victims of this practice, Americans are victims of this practice. We're going to change this. We're going to get the Palestinian Authority's attention by withholding their money."

Graham also noted that "anti-Semitism is on the rise" in America. The bill represents an effort to push back against this.

"I want people to understand who America is when it comes to the one and only Jewish state," Graham said.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who has long backed similar efforts, told the Free Beacon it is long past due for Congress to take the lead on this effort now that Obama administration officials can no longer lead efforts to block it.

"After eight years of the Obama administration, the U.S. must take long overdue action to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for incentivizing and rewarding acts of terrorism," Cruz told the Free Beacon. "Roughly $300 million annually is provided in monthly salaries and benefits to terrorists jailed in Israel, their families, and the families of those who died committing such horrific atrocities against Israeli and American citizens, including Taylor Force. Enough is enough. We must stand up for victims of Palestinian terrorism. No more U.S. taxpayer dollars should be provided until the Palestinian leadership stops engaging in this heinous practice. The incitement and glorification of terrorism must end."