Biden Administration Could Be Breaking the Law
The Biden Administration has quietly notified Congress that it intends to distribute $125 million in aid to "Palestine," reportedly to "regain their 'trust and goodwill' after the Trump-era cuts." The assistance package was set to take effect on April 10.
That decision is shameful, illegal, and immoral, and Congress should not let it happen.
It is shameful to blame the Palestinians' loss of aid on former President Trump. It was Congress, not Trump, who set the conditions for Palestinian aid. And it was "Palestine," not Trump, that violated those terms with impunity. Hiding behind fake partisan politics to call what happened "Trump-era cuts" is nothing more than revisionist history.
It is illegal for the Biden Administration to restore that aid because every year since 2014 the United States has made clear in annual appropriation legislation – adopted by a massive bipartisan majority each time – that if the Palestinian Authority (PA) were to initiate an ICC investigation, and/or so long as they were actively supporting such an investigation, the U.S. would cut funding for the PA.
This requirement was reaffirmed again very recently, by a strong bipartisan majority, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Despite these clear and repeated warnings, the PA did initiate and does continue to openly and officially support just such an investigation. By law, they must be held to account for the willful disrespect of and disregard of American laws, values, and interests. Anything else reflects the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Finally, restoring aid is immoral because the Biden Administration knows exactly what the PA does with its international aid money. In a recent non-public report to Congress, the Administration confirmed that the PA has continued to use that money to pay stipends through its official Martyr Fund to murderous terrorists and their families. The PA spent at least $151 million in 2019 on its "Pay to Slay" program and at least $155 million in 2020. The fact that this program is codified in PA law- including that deadlier attacks get more money which incentivizes bloodshed - is beyond sickening.
Congress was rightfully sickened; and in 2018, they passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan law called the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits the U.S. government from resuming Palestinian aid until these payments to terrorists are stopped. Taylor Force was a U.S. Military Academy graduate and veteran, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, he went on a school trip to Tel Aviv, and he was stabbed to death by a murderous terrorist. The PA labeled his killer a "heroic martyr," and the murderer's family began to receive their regular payments alongside all the other glorified killers. It is a disgrace to Taylor Force's memory, and a grave disrespect to the memories of all those who have been killed, to try and curry favor with a governmental authority that would and actually does, certifiably and admittedly, pay to have us murdered.
The Biden Administration will likely try and skirt the law by supplying the aid to civic groups instead of the PA directly, but that is not an answer for two reasons: First, the law prohibits any funding that directly benefits the PA, and there is no question that this is the intention. Second, according to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, between 2015 and 2019, the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is the agency in charge of distributing this funding, did not ensure that the subawards from its allocations were not going to terrorists.
That is why over a dozen organizations and over two dozen members of Congress sent letters to President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken last week, urging them not to let the American people down by rewarding those who disrespect our terms and devalue our very lives. It is not too late to change course, and Congress should make clear that the Palestinians need to regain our trust and goodwill before we send them support. At the very least, we must be absolutely sure that they will not use that very aid to glorify and pay the murderer of an innocent American soldier.
This article originally appeared in Israel Hayom.