As far as they are concerned, the U.S. Congress is just doing what it always does: pandering to the “Israel Lobby.” That’s how the foreign policy establishment and the left regard the bipartisan support for the Taylor Force Act, a bill named after a non-Jewish U.S. Army veteran slain in a Palestinian terror attack last year.
The legislation would cut off American aid for the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless the PA stops funding terrorism. The bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug. 3 in a 17 to 4 vote, with all the committee’s Republicans and six of its 10 Democrats supporting its adoption.
The notion that the U.S. would halt aid to the PA merely because it doesn’t want to be morally complicit in a “pay for slay” scheme strikes many on the left as lacking sympathy for the Palestinians as well as self-defeating, since ending the funding might lead to the collapse of the PA. Their assumption is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas means what he says when he and his Fatah party threaten to disband their Ramallah-based government if the foreign money that keeps it afloat is cut off. If true, it would force Israel to reassume full control over all of the disputed territories, which most Israelis think would be a disaster.
It may also be impossible for Abbas. Stopping the payments to terrorists would contradict the basic narrative of Palestinian history in which violence against the Jews is viewed as self-defense as well as a heroic act of resistance that is deserving of praise. Asking Abbas to take such a step would be tantamount to requesting that he commit suicide.
So why do it?
The answer is that those demanding a halt to aid to the PA are not merely venting their outrage at the Palestinians. They are also pointing the way toward the only possible path to peace.
The PA has spent more than $1.1 billion on salaries for terrorists and pensions for their families in just the last four years. In the next fiscal year, it will spend half of all the foreign aid they get on this effort. It has created a set of financial incentives that not only gives Palestinians a reason to commit terror, but emboldens their belief that only by committing a truly serious offense involving the shedding of blood, will they ensure that their families are provided with enough to live comfortably.
Those who rationalize the continuation of the aid point to the security cooperation that the PA offers to Israel as proof the Jewish state has a partner for peace. But while the cooperation has value, it has two main purposes: making sure Abbas’s Hamas rivals don’t gain a foothold in the disputed territories and ensuring the safety of the Fatah leadership against attacks from the Islamists. Thus, when the PA threatens to halt security cooperation, as it did during the recent controversy over the Temple Mount, the biggest potential loser from such an action would be Fatah, not just Israel.
That’s why the talk of a PA collapse that Abbas and his apologists continue to invoke is a bluff.
Fatah’s survival depends on its ability to use foreign donations to fund its corrupt practices in the disputed territories. The Palestinian faction’s obstruction of economic development or any measures that might end the corruption that enriches its leaders has created a situation in which much of the Palestinian population in the territories depends on having no work or no-show jobs that Fatah gives out in exchange for support. Thus, while it is true that ending funding for terror would be deeply unpopular and might boost Hamas, it would also be the end of Fatah.
Nor should we accept the notion that there is any moral equivalence between anger about Western donations rewarding those who slaughter Jews and Palestinian anger about settlements. Even if you accept the dubious argument that settlements are the real obstacle to peace, if you think building a new house in a place Palestinians think should be free of Jews is just as bad as killing people, then all you are doing is making a case that peace between two peoples with such different moral codes is clearly impossible.
That’s why it is imperative that the West force Abbas to choose between giving up power and giving up their gruesome terror-funding scheme. Far from obstructing the chances for peace, as some on the left claim, compelling the Palestinians to reject a culture of violence that ensures the conflict will continue indefinitely is the only hope for its resolution. No matter where your political sympathies lie, it’s time to realize that opposing the Taylor Force Act undermines any hope for peace.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for National Review. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.