WASHINGTON — When Palestinian terrorist Rajaei Haddad was released from an Israeli prison on April 10 after serving 20 years for the murder of yeshiva student Gabriel Hirschberg in Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was there to greet him while members of Abbas’s Fatah Party hailed him “a leader, a hero, and a fighter.”
That same day, the Palestinian Authority’s TV channel aired an interview in which writer Ani Abu Zeid complained about Israelis who used to “cry about the false Holocaust in the days of Hitler,” adding that Jews “colluded with Hitler so that he would facilitate the bringing of settlers to Palestine.”
When, a few weeks earlier, President Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law, requiring that Washington end its financial aid for the Palestinian Authority if the latter doesn’t stop providing generous stipends to Palestinians who kill Jews, Palestinian officials took umbrage and vowed not to stop.
In language worthy of George Orwell, a top Abbas aide who serves as the Palestinian envoy to Washington said the Palestinian Authority was “the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence.”
The Taylor Force Act is named for a West Point graduate, former U.S. Army field artillery officer and first-year graduate student from Vanderbilt University who was stabbed to death in a terror attack by a knife-wielding Palestinian in Tel Aviv in March 2016. The attack left 10 others wounded.
That law clearly moved U.S. policy in the right direction but, frankly, it didn’t go far enough. The United States already has all the reason it needs to stop funding that the Palestinian Authority. Consider:
The federal government provides about $400 million a year to the Palestinian Authority — the supposedly “moderate” body that was created under the 1993 Oslo Accords and that runs the West Bank — even though it reward terrorists, incites violence against Jews on TV and social media and approves school textbooks and other curricula that portray Jews in ugly terms and promote a Palestine that would stretch “from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea” — thus replacing Israel.
Washington, of course, doesn’t send the money specifically to finance terrorism. But money is fungible, so U.S. aid that the Palestinian Authority can use for one purpose frees up money it can use for another. Thus, U.S. aid facilitates a system of financial rewards that makes terrorism a tempting occupation.
Under the rewards system — which critics have dubbed “pay for slay” — stipends rise as terrorists spend more time in Israeli jails or die as “martyrs.”
A terrorist jailed for less than three years reportedly receives a monthly stipend of $368, while one sentenced to at least 30 years receives $3,400 a month — the same amount that goes to the families of those who die while killing Jews. Since the average Palestinian makes $300 a month, terrorism can seem an inviting profession.
After Yosef Kuperwasser, a former Israeli military intelligence research chief, investigated such stipends, he reported in May 2017 that the Palestinian Authority had paid $1.12 billion over the previous four years to terrorists and their families.
The payments, he found, amounted to about 7 percent of that body’s $4 billion annual budget and over 20 percent of its annual foreign aid.
When, last year, top U.S. officials began demanding that the Palestinian Authority end this murderous practice, top Palestinian officials rebuffed them in strikingly bold terms — for instance, putting a line item specifically for the stipends into their annual budget rather than continuing to hide the funding.
Of “martyred” Palestinian terrorists, Abbas declared earlier this year, “They are our children and they are our families. They honor us, and we will continue to pay them before the living.”
Don’t U.S. taxpayers deserve better? Doesn’t the family of Taylor Force?
Lawrence J. Haas, former Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore, is Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.