The Biden administration will have to walk a fine line when it resumes U.S. aid to the Palestinians due to an American law that blocks funding until they end a policy known as "pay to slay," in which Western aid money is used to care for imprisoned terrorists and their families.
Republican lawmakers say a resumption in U.S. aid to the Palestinians could violate the Taylor Force Act, which mandates the Palestinian government stop using Western aid dollars to pay terrorists and their families. Congressional leaders told the Washington Free Beacon they will be closely watching the administration to ensure it does not violate U.S. law. The State Department maintains any resumption in aid will be done in compliance with the law, which does include exemptions for humanitarian assistance.
The Biden administration’s decision sets up an early showdown between the State Department and Congress over the future of U.S. foreign policy regarding the Palestinians and their continued support for terrorism. The Free Beacon first reported in October that the Palestinian government has continued paying terrorists despite the passage three years ago of the Taylor Force Act, according to findings that were published in a non-public State Department report sent to Congress.
"The resumption of any U.S foreign assistance that indirectly funds the Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay terrorist program would violate U.S. law, betray our Israeli partners, and put Americans living in or visiting Israel in harm’s way," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) told the Free Beacon.
A State Department official said the new administration would "fully comply with U.S. law, including the Taylor Force Act," when it resumes U.S. aid to the Palestinians but did not outline any specific projects or causes that might receive funding. U.S. aid will be spent on economic development projects and humanitarian causes, the official said.
The Biden administration maintains that President Donald Trump’s hardline policy on U.S. aid "neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership," as it was meant to do. "It has only harmed innocent Palestinian people, while undermining the credibility of the U.S. as an honest broker" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the State Department official said.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) told the Free Beacon the Taylor Force Act is vital to ensuring that American taxpayer dollars do not fund terrorists and their families.
"In the absence of change, it is insane that we would unilaterally resume this assistance and in so doing, risk being complicit in these horrific actions," Gallagher said.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department, said an immediate resumption in U.S. aid to the Palestinians will void "any leverage that we might have had on this issue, and it's lamentable because I think this is a reasonable ask of the Palestinian Authority to stop pay to slay."
The Biden administration is also seeking to reopen Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington, D.C., which were shuttered in large part as punishment for the ongoing pay-to-slay program.
David Friedman, the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel, said on Twitter that a reopening of these diplomatic offices "is against federal law," as the Palestinians are "still paying terrorists."