Trump Admin Pressed to Deny Palestinian President Entry to U.S.

Pro-Israel activists seek to block Abbas from U.S. for terror ties

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas / Getty Images
September 20, 2018

The Trump administration is being pressured to prevent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from entering the United States to participate in the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, a platform Abbas routinely uses to bash Israel and foment violence against it, according to a letter sent to the Trump administration and viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Palestinian Media Watch, or PMW, an advocacy organization that tracks anti-Semitism and calls for terrorism in the Palestinian media, is petitioning the White House, State, and Treasury Departments to deny Abbas entry to America under new federal statutes barring international terrorist leaders from traveling to the United States.

The pressure campaign—which is being met with passivity in the State Department—comes on the heels of the passage of new legislation cracking down on the Palestinian government's use of American aid dollars to pay the salaries of convicted terrorists and their families.

That law, known as the Taylor Force Act, was approved by President Trump and recently implemented. Since that time, the Trump administration has frozen millions in aid dollars to the Palestinian government, frozen its bank accounts, and booted its top officials from the United States.

Other statutes in the law could be used to deny Abbas entry to the United States due to his position as the leader of a Palestinian government group known to be paying off terrorists, PMW argues in its letters to the Trump administration.

"The reason to prohibit Abbas' entry is that he is head of an organization that according to American designation 'incentivizes terror,'" PMW director Itamar Marcus wrote in a letter to the administration and provided to the Free Beacon.

"The Taylor Force Act, which passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by Pres. Trump, declares that paying salaries to terrorist prisoners and Martyrs' families is an 'incentive to commit acts of terror,'" the group argues.

"The Palestinian Authority, through the Palestine National Fund, makes these terror-promoting payments," the letter states. "Mahmoud Abbas is the head of the Palestine National Fund."

"The recipients of these payments include murderers of U.S. citizens and members of U.S. designated terrorist organizations," the group states. "So according to American law Abbas is head of an organization that incentivizes terror and which provides 'material support' to terrorists, terrorism, and designated terrorist organizations, contrary to [federal laws codified under] 18 U.S.C. §2339A and §2339B."

The State Department, however, when asked for comment on the matter by the Free Beacon, declined to take a position on the letter and its contents.

A State Department spokesperson told the Free Beacon that, in most situations, foreign nationals must be admitted to the United States due to its role as the U.N.'s host nation.

"I can't speak to the specifics, but typically, as host nation for the United Nations, the United States is generally obligated to admit foreign nationals traveling to U.N. Headquarters in New York for official U.N. business," the official said.

"The State Department's response is alarming because allowing Mahmoud Abbas into the U.S. is in direct violation of the letter and spirit of U.S. law," Marcus told the Free Beacon. "U.S. law is very clear on protecting its borders from terrorists and includes prohibiting entry to those involved in incentivizing terror."

"Mahmoud Abbas is the head of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian National Fund—both of which make monthly payments to Palestinian terrorist prisoners and to families of killed terrorists," Marcus said.

PMW rejects this argument in the letter sent to top administration officials.

"There is no doubt Abbas will use his U.N. address to continue these attacks," the letter states. "While it may be argued that the United States is committed to allow the entry and free passage of certain persons into the U.S. to participate in meetings of the United Nations, that commitment is limited to the 'Representatives of Member' States. Since Palestine is not a member state of the United Nations, Abbas does not enjoy these privileges and his entry into the U.S. must be specifically granted."

PMW, in materials provided to U.S. officials, further argues that Abbas' role as the head of an organization paying convicted terrorists—some of whom have killed U.S. citizens—designates him as a global terror leader, thus making him ineligible for entry to America.

"Noting its involvement in terrorism, Israel declared the Palestine National Fund a terror organization," PMW writes in its letter to the Trump administration. "According to Israeli law, Mahmoud Abbas is the head of a terror organization. It should also be noted that Abbas and other organizations he heads are using every platform to attack and insult the U.S."

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Fatah political party, headed by Abbas, "mocked the 9-11 tragedy by depicting President Trump about to fly a plane into a building shaped like the PA map of 'Palestine' that includes all of Israel and is painted in the colors of the PA," the group notes.

Perhaps even more concerning as it relates to U.S. law, Abbas has publicly advocated for the "'destruction of the house' of President Trump, and [he] uses almost every opportunity to attack the U.S., the current administration and its policies," PMW writes to U.S. officials.