The Biden administration privately confirmed to Congress last week that the Palestinian Authority has continued to use international aid money to reward terrorists but said the finding won't impact its plans to restart funding.
In a non-public State Department report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the administration said the Palestinians spent at least $151 million in 2019 on its "pay-to-slay" program, in which international aid dollars are spent to support imprisoned terrorists and their families. Financial statements further indicate that at least $191 million was spent on "deceased Palestinians referred to as ‘martyrs.’" Despite this practice, which violates U.S. law and prompted the Trump administration to freeze aid to the Palestinians, the "Biden-Harris Administration has made clear its intent to restart assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," according to the report.
It remains unclear how the Biden administration will restart American aid without violating a 2018 bipartisan law known as the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits the U.S. government from resuming Palestinian aid until the payments to terrorists are stopped. The latest report on the matter is likely to rankle pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress who see the payments as a gift to the Palestinian government as it continues to sponsor terrorism and foment anti-Israel hatred.
A spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a primary backer of the Taylor Force Act and proponent of continuing the freeze of Palestinian aid, told the Free Beacon the Biden administration is currently planning to skirt American laws barring taxpayer dollars from reaching the Palestinian government.
"Congress correctly and overwhelmingly passed the Taylor Force Act to limit assistance to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority just shifts fungible resources to pay terrorists," the spokesman said. "Sen. Cruz is concerned that in the rush to elevate the Palestinians and downgrade the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Biden administration is looking for ways to circumvent the restrictions on American taxpayer dollars going to those areas in ways that will benefit the Palestinian Authority."
The State Department admitted it was "unable to certify" to Congress that the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization are complying with the Taylor Force Act, primarily because they have "not terminated payments for acts of terrorism to any individual, after being fairly tried, who has been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism and to any individual who died committing such acts of terrorism, including to a family member of such individuals," according to the report.
The Palestinian government continues to fund the "pay-to-slay" program, the State Department confirmed in the unclassified March 18 report. A classified version of the report with "additional information on the amount the PA is believed to have transferred to" terrorists during 2019 also was produced by the State Department. Those figures, which likely stand at more than $155 million in 2020 alone, could galvanize a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to publicly oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to resume Palestinian aid.
Currently, "plans for [resuming] this assistance are being developed, and the resumption of assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, including any assistance for the PA using [fiscal year] 2020 funds, will be fully consistent with applicable requirements under U.S. law," the administration claims in the report without explaining exactly how it will legally execute that plan.
Another private State Department memo outlining the Biden administration’s efforts to increase diplomacy with the Palestinian government indicates that U.S. aid dollars will start flowing again at the end of March or early April, according to a copy of that memo recently leaked in the press.
In addition to paying terrorists and their families, the State Department determined the Palestinian government has "not taken proactive steps to counter incitement to violence against Israel." Thus, the U.S. government also could not certify for Congress that the PA has made good on repeated promises to end incitement and recommit to peace negotiations.
The report highlights contradictory statements by PA president Mahmoud Abbas made throughout 2020 promising to pursue peace and also continue terror operations against Israel. Moreover, "incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism occur in public statements and social media posts by PA officials and politicians, in official media broadcasts and social media outlets, and in school textbooks," according to the report.
Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog group, recently determined the Palestinian government spent around 3.2 percent of its total 2020 budget, or $155 million, on the "pay-to-slay" program. Many of these payments were obscured by the PA, which funneled some $300 million to the PLO so that it could continue payment to terrorists in violation of U.S. law.