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The long waited enactment of the United States’ Taylor Force Act, which could require the State Department to withhold $350 million of its annual American aid to the Palestinians if they continue using these taxpayer funds to pay monthly stipends to the families of imprisoned terrorists and suicide bombers, has created a crisis for their leadership.
The Taylor Force Act, which comes almost 25 years after the signing of the disastrous Oslo Accords, for the first time sends the message and provides actual teeth, against something the architects and proponents of the agreements with the PLO insistently refused to confront then and now – the Palestinians’ deeply ingrained culture of brazen anti-Israel hate and official glorification of those who perpetrate terrorism against innocent Jews.
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The 25-year-long diplomatic strategy under Oslo, of kicking the central issue of the conflict, that the Palestinians do not accept our legitimacy as a people and view us solely as occupiers of their land who need to be resisted by any means possible, down the road, stands a chance of finally being confronted and dismantled.
The Taylor Force Act is a first effective attempt by an Israeli ally to address the dangerous political schizophrenia that allows the Palestinian security services to boast internationally that they are cooperating with Israel and preventing terrorist attacks, while at the same time fanning the flames of violence against us by venerating and rewarding those prisoners serving sentences for murdering and maiming Israelis.
Some years back I participated in deposition of officials of the Palestinian Authority in a case brought by American terrorism victims for attacks perpetrated by the PLO during the Second Intifada. These pre-trial examinations, which the Palestinians insisted could only be held in east Jerusalem, secretly took place in a conference room at the American Colony Hotel, right around the corner from Orient House, which had recently been shuttered by Israeli police for PLO activity.
In the course of the depositions we had the right to subpoena and pose questions to the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs, himself a veteran of Israeli prisons who had been convicted of security crimes and was now in charge of distributing the official monthly stipends to the imprisoned terrorists.
The plaintiffs’ goal was to secure evidence that the terrorists were not rogue employees of the PA, as the defendants insisted, but rather loyal soldiers following a formal directive of intifada violence against Jews, which would render the PA liable for their actions.
Our questions challenged the minister over the payments policy, which we alleged served as an official inducement and encouragement of the violence against innocent Israelis. By paying the terrorists each month before anyone else on the public dole, the Palestinians were clearly glorifying those who perpetrated the criminal attacks, and holding them up as courageous resistance fighters whom their public should emulate and revere.
The Palestinian official objected that this was not the intent of their program. His line of responses sought to cast the payments as social welfare grants provided to keep the unfortunate families of imprisoned men from slipping further into despair and to deter extremism. Without these welfare payments, he contended, the terrorism would escalate further.
He could provide no answers, however, to our inquiries concerning why the payment amounts were set according to the severity of the offenses and length of sentences the prisoners had received? Why they were being paid only to those Palestinians convicted of security crimes and not also to all the unfortunate families of car thieves and rapists sitting in Israeli jails? Moreover, why did the Palestinians provide promotions in rank and pay every two years to the prisoners, most of whom were members of their security services, if they were indeed rogue employees who were not following the PA’s policy in attacking Israelis? Was this how you treat rogue employees?
The lengthy depositions ended without the Palestinians giving any ground or admitting the obvious: that the exalting and veneration of those they claim engaged in armed resistance against the occupation goes to the very core of their culture, it’s how they see themselves, how they want the world to perceive them and how in the end, they view us.
In the face of the enactment of the Taylor Force Act the current entrenched Palestinian leadership now has some difficult choices to make. They can either continue to be the revolutionary PLO of 1960s Beirut, steeped in the culture of armed resistance against Israel, or they can remove their nostalgic ski masks and keffiyehs and somehow transform themselves and their society into an entity that the United States will be willing to support with its taxpayers’ money. No one is buying any longer the official line that the prisoner payments somehow deter Palestinian terrorism.
There can be no doubt that the PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas will not, however, willingly discontinue the prisoner payments and that the Trump administration’s relationship with the Palestinians will further erode as US aid is reduced under the Taylor Force Act.
Abbas, with his life-time career as a PLO leader and already the source of wild insults against America, will simply not be the one to betray those he holds up as fellow resistance fighters, and would rather leave office then be known in Ramallah as a traitor to the struggle.
There is a simple inviolable law of Palestinian physics, and that’s the prisoners always get paid. None of the potential candidates vying to replace Abbas seems inclined or capable of making this bitter choice either.
Israel will also now be compelled to discontinue playing its own double game that it has engaged in with the Palestinians since the Second Intifada. If the violence and chaos begins to escalate again, we will no longer be able to pretend that the Palestinian security forces are combating terrorism while at the same time their leaders are the ones funding and encouraging it. Israel will have to end its own schizophrenic approach and safeguard Israeli lives at all costs.