Last month, the Taylor Force Act was passed by a resounding bipartisan majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The bill, named after the West Point graduate and veteran, killed in a terrorist attack in Israel last year, is intended to cut American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ceases its egregious practice of paying generous stipends to incarcerated terrorists and/or families of deceased terrorists.
Appropriate and Imperative
Perversely, the more gruesome the act of terror and the longer the sentence imposed on the perpetrator, the greater the remuneration — a practice under which "U.S. aid becomes a transfer payment for terrorists,” making measures to curtail it not only appropriate, but imperative.
As it went before the committee, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy posted an article relating to the prospective bill, clearly endorsing this position. Penned by prominent pundits David Makovsky, and Dennis Ross, together with Lia Weiner, it asserted, “There should definitely be no ‘pay to slay’… This has to stop.”
However, it cautions against “wholesale” cessation of U.S. funds, calling for a more nuanced (read “watered-down”) application of the punitive cuts: “Threats of sweeping cuts to Palestinian aid may hurt the cause more than they help,” warning that: “To entirely defund U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza is…to halt economic and social progress there.” Instead it proposes an approach that “recognizes that innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control.”
However, making innocent members of the population pay for nefarious deeds of governments they “cannot control” has been the hallmark of U.S. policy across the globe for years — even when those governments have been far more tyrannical than Abbas’s PA.
So why should “innocent Palestinians” merit greater consideration than “innocents” in other despotic regimes against which the U.S. has imposed punishing, at times crippling, economic penalties — such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea?
“Palestine”: What the polls predict
Indeed, while it is true that the Palestinians “have not been able to vote in an election for more than a decade,” and, to a large measure, cannot “control” the current PA government, they certainly did empower it! In fact, it is in many ways a government of their making — and theirs alone.
After all, in the last elections (in 2006), the Islamist terror organization Hamas, and incumbent PA president Abbas’s Fatah won 90 percent of the vote for the Palestinian Legislative Council. By contrast, parties focusing on socio-economic reforms and human rights fared extremely poorly.
Moreover, recent public opinion polls provide little cause for optimism that this is likely to change.
Indeed, the most popular candidates to replace Abbas as PA president are Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti, currently serving multiple life sentences in Israel for a myriad of lethal acts of terror, and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, while findings for the legislative elections show almost 70 percent would still vote for either Fatah or Hamas.
There is, thus, little reason to believe that new elections would produce a sea-change for the better in the composition of the PA, or its policy. In fact, quite the opposite might well be true.
But perhaps most damaging to the contention that “innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control” is the finding that there is near unanimous public endorsement for the very financial support the Taylor Force Act is intended to terminate.
“Pay to Slay” Is “Vox Populi”
Thus, a July 2017 survey by Palestinian Center of Policy and Survey Research, headed by well-known Palestinian pollster, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, found: “an almost total consensus rejects pressure on the PA to terminate payments to Palestinian security prisoners i.e. convicted terrorists” and “91% are opposed to the suspension of PA payments to Palestinian security prisoners." Indeed, as a recent Tablet Magazine article observed: “the prisoner payment program is one of the most popular PA programs…it would be political suicide for the PA to halt it."
So, in stark contradiction to the impression conveyed by Makovsky et al., “pay to slay” is not a policy foisted on a reluctant Palestinian public, but one enthusiastically embraced by it — and merely an accurate reflection of vox populi.
Accordingly, the Palestinian population is not some hapless victim of the terror groups, but the very crucible from which such groups have emerged.
Implacable Enemy Not Prospective Peace Partner
At the end of the day, the clash between Jew and Arab over the Holy Land is a clash between two collectives. For the Jewish collective, the Palestinian collective is — and must be treated as it sees itself: An implacable enemy, not a prospective peace partner.
Accordingly, the conflict, as one between collectives cannot be individualized. One collective must emerge victorious, the other vanquished. Only then, after victory/defeat, can the issue of personal misfortune be addressed.
This, then, is the perspective in which Palestinian society must be placed — and the perspective from which the formulation of the Taylor Force Act be approached.
Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, dedicated to the preservation and propagation of joint values shared by the USA and Israel as embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment and acted as a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations, and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees — B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), MBA (Finance), and PhD in political science/international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and has authored two books as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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