Thursday, Sept. 21
Latest News
  1. Hundreds of students attend Youth Day at Bethlehem University
  2. Clashes erupt between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Hebron city
  3. Hundreds of Israelis enter Al-Aqsa on eve of Rosh Hashanah
  4. Israeli forces injure 9 Palestinians in clashes in Abu Dis
  5. Israeli forces detain 9 Palestinians in predawn West Bank raids
  6. Abbas meets with UN chief in New York
  7. Elor Azarya released from prison on 4-day furlough for Rosh Hashanah
  8. Israeli forces uproot dozens of fruit trees in northern West Bank
  9. Israel closes West Bank, Gaza for Jewish New Year
  10. Israeli forces demolish Palestinian structure in East Jerusalem

US advances bill to cut funding to PA over ‘martyrs social program’

Aug. 5, 2017 5:42 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2017 5:42 P.M.)
Members of the United States House of Representatives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United States Senate advanced the a bill known as the Taylor Force Act, aimed at completely cutting funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) over its so-called “martyrs” compensation program on Thursday, on the same day that European Union (EU) announced that it had approved a 20-million-euro donation to the PA.  

The US has threatened to completely revoke its funding to the PA, after the Taylor Force Act passed a critical committee vote in the Senate on Thursday, which will advance the bill to a full vote on the senate floorIf passed, the US will be obligated to cut its funding to the PA unless it halts a program providing funds to families of slain Palestinians and prisoners.

The US move came as the EU announced that it would contribute 20 million euros ($23.5 million) to the PA in order to assist in paying July salaries and pensions for 57,500 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners. It is the third year that the EU has provided direct financial support to the PA. 

The Taylor Force Act was initially introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) during a Congress session last year. However, it has now received bipartisan support. 

“The longer you’re in jail, the more vicious the crime, the more money you get,” Graham reportedly said on Thursday, adding that the PA’s social programs were “inconsistent with peace. It is a sick system -- it needs to change.” 

Graham also reportedly called the program a “crime for young Palestinians to incentivize murder and terrorism.”

The bill was named the Taylor Force Act after a US army veteran who was killed during an attack in Jaffa last year.

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the bill would necessitate that the PA follow certain conditions in order to receive funds from the US government, including taking “credible steps” to end violence by its citizens under its “jurisdictional control,” publicly condemning and punishing Palestinians who have committed acts of violence against Israelis, and “terminating payments” to individuals and their families who have been killed after carrying out an attack.

In Palestinian society, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is responsible for providing financial assistance to families of those slain, injured, or imprisoned by Israeli forces. In 2016, this included 112 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces and nearly 4,000 Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces mostly during clashes, according to UN documentation.

In addition, Israeli authorities currently hold 6,128 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, including 450 without charge or trial. The group has reported that 40 percent of the Palestinian male population has at some point been detained by Israeli forces.

The payments are estimated to be a monthly base payment of $350, which is increased depending on certain factors, such as if the individual was married, had children, or the duration Palestinian prisoners have spent in Israeli custody.

The controversial social program has been the target of criticism in the US  for years. While the program was managed by the PLO since its inception in 1966, the payments to Palestinian prisoners and their families were shifted to the PA following the Oslo Peace Accords in 1998. However, stipends to families of Palestinians killed or injured by Israeli forces remained under the management of the PLO.

In 2014, following a flurry of criticism by the US government and the passing of legislation aimed at cutting funds to the PA over the program, the payment distribution was then shifted completely back under PLO management.

However, while the PLO is in charge of distributing payments in the program, the PA has been accused of providing the funds to the PLO which then in turn provides assistance to the Palestinian families.

According CRS, since 2015 US funds to the PA have been cut “by an amount the Secretary determines is equivalent to the amount expended by the Palestinian Authority as payments for acts of terrorism by individuals who are imprisoned after being fairly tried and convicted for acts of terrorism and by individuals who died committing acts of terrorism during the previous calendar year.”

The Taylor Force Act differs from this previous legislation by threatening to completely eliminate aid to the PA if it refuses to dismantle the program.

Palestinians have often argued that the compensation program does not have anything to do with “funding terrorism,” as this most recent bill claims, but is part of a larger social program to assist Palestinian families who have been affected by Israel’s nearly half-century military occupation of the Palestinian territory.

Moreover, the payments are not only distributed to families of Palestinians who have been accused of attacking Israelis, but also to numerous families whose members have been killed, imprisoned, or injured by Israeli forces without any wrongdoing.

Rights groups have claimed that Israeli authorities use prison and detention raids -- which often erupt into violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces -- as a tool to disrupt Palestinian life in the occupied territory, as many families suffer financially when Israeli forces kill, wound, or imprison Palestinians.
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2017