Biden’s State Department Subsidizes Terror, Prioritizes Terrorists Over Innocent Israeli and American Citizens
As we’ve previously detailed regarding the Taylor Force Act (TFA), the Biden Administration’s wrongheaded desire to upgrade relations and restart economic relations and development with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is leading to disastrous effects.
The TFA prevents U.S. taxpayer funding to the PA as long as the PA continues its “Pay for Slay” program that pays the families of terrorists who kill Israeli and American civilians. The Biden Administration has been willfully violating this critical federal law for years, and so we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Administration.
A recent FOIA production obtained through our lawsuit against the State Department provides additional color surrounding this prominent Biden Administration policy goal. Ultimately, the decision boils down to Biden delivering on one of his prominent campaign promises to “reverse the Trump Administration’s destructive cutoff of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority.”
One thing the emails make clear is that the unelected bureaucrats at the State Department had a full grasp of the gravity of the situation and the various diplomatic and legal challenges associated with advancing the Biden Administration’s goals. The State Department knew that significant controversy would be generated by their decision. Extensive materials, complete with background and talking points, were prepared for Biden Administration officials before they were asked about relevant issues surrounding diplomacy with Palestinian governing entities. In fact, one uncovered email detailing a draft FAQ for the restarting of aid to the PA nicely summarizes the background and context surrounding the passage and enforcement of the TFA:
Context: The Taylor Force Act (TFA) was signed into law on March 23, 2018, as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The TFA restricts Economic Support Funds made available for the West Bank and Gaza that directly benefit the PA unless the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that the PA has taken specific steps to end the practice of providing payments to individuals, and families of individuals, who committed acts of terrorism. There is a separate similar provision in the annual appropriations act. As the Administration has resumed certain assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, Congress has asked a number of questions about how we ensure assistance is provided consistent with the TFA, as well as other restrictions. (p. 41)
This understanding squares with the understanding of the ACLJ – that Economic Support Funds (ESF) to the PA are restricted unless or until the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that specific steps have been taken to end the payments to individuals who committed acts of terrorism, also colloquially known as the “Pay to Slay” program. The certification process for TFA compliance is also described in greater detail: “Prior to congressional notification of this new assistance addressed above, USAID, in consultation with the Department, conducted a full analysis and assessed that planned economic and development assistance would not ‘directly benefit’ the PA or would fall within an exception in the TFA” (pg. 28).
The key to the Biden Administration’s political subterfuge lies in manipulating the phrase “directly benefit” to deny that money is fungible and that the economic aid provided to the PA inevitably frees up other funds for terrorism. As defined by a document transmitted by the State Department to Congress on May 3, 2018, the criteria used to determine whether assistance “directly benefits” the PA includes:
The intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the [PA] is the direct recipient of the assistance; whether the assistance involves the payment of [PA] creditors; the extent of ownership or control the [PA] asserts over an entity or individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or services provided directly replace assistance or services provided by the [PA]. (pg. 28–29)
The Biden Administration clearly knew that potential violations of the TFA would be a substantial focus for their political opponents.
In anticipation of challenges, an answer was specifically prepared in a document titled “Hard Q&A/Talking Points,” likely used to brief Biden Administration officials to respond to questions such as “Are we complying with U.S. law?” Unfortunately, the answer to this specific question is redacted (pg. 10). Additionally, the emails mention that the Department and USAID have a “robust vetting process in place to mitigate the risk that funds would flow to unintended recipients” in place to prevent funds from violating the TFA (pg. 29). Yet no additional details or specifics about the vetting process are provided.
These emails cited above uncovered a new, important, and previously unconsidered aspect of the inquiry – the role of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in finalizing an assessment stating that aid to the PA could be restarted while maintaining compliance with the TFA. This raises numerous additional questions. How did the USAID assess that aid could now be TFA-compliant when these same agencies arrived at the exact opposite conclusion under the previous Administration? Can the USAID assessment be shared publicly to increase the transparency of the evidence and arguments used in the restart of aid to the PA? What “robust vetting” measures do State and the USAID have in place to ensure aid does not “directly benefit” the PA, and are these aid funds regularly audited? Finally, if the resuming aid payments were not compliant with TFA – are there penalties for agencies or personnel that falsely certified this to Congress? Sadly, these questions are unanswerable given the current opacity of the State Department and the USAID’s decision-making process. An additional FOIA request may be needed for USAID to help answer some or all these questions.
In addition to a broad awareness of the numerous thorny legal issues associated with TFA compliance for the aid, a substantial portion of the emails discuss the background of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 (ATA), the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), and other terrorism-related laws in their specific application to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and PA (pg. 33–34). Collectively, these statutes describe the requirements for the re-opening of the Office of the General Delegation of the PLO, another policy goal of the Biden Administration (p. 43). In a letter to President Biden, Sen. James Risch, the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his concerns that the Biden Administration’s goal was to “re-open the PLO office” and “that such a reopening undermines U.S. interests, turns a blind eye to victims of Palestinian-sponsored terrorism, and will make changes in Palestinian conduct less likely.” Sen. Risch also notes that under the 1987 ATA, the PLO and its affiliates are a terrorist organization (pg. 44). State’s internal discussions appear to agree with this assessment, noting the numerous legal complications associated with any attempted reopening of an American PLO office: “ATCA II…includes jurisdictional triggers related to PA/PLO activities, including an office, headquarters, or other facilities in the United States…the [ATA] continues to impose restrictions on the office of the PLO and related activities” (p. 49). Yet despite clear internal acknowledgment by State Department officials and the highest-ranking Republican Senate official on the Foreign Affairs Committee expressing concerns about how these aid funds implicate the funding of Palestinian terrorism, Biden was more than willing to overlook these concerns solely to deliver on his campaign promise to restart diplomatic relations with the Palestinians and rebuff Trump’s policies.
It is important to note, that we recently sent in a new FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its employment of a former official from that PLO office, Nejwa Ali, in a sensitive DHS position overseeing asylum claims, after she recently posted, “F*** Israel, the government, and its military. Are you ready for your downfall?” Statements such as this only lend further support to the idea that the attempted reopening of the PLO office was political, intended to appease rabid leftists intent on Israel’s destruction.
Overall, these emails reveal a disturbing awareness about the interlocked nature of the TFA, federal anti-terrorism laws, and the Biden Administration’s policy goals with the PA. It is evident that the overarching goal here was the fulfillment of a campaign promise, not a decision made with the priorities and safety of the American citizens or the defense of our allies in Israel in mind.
Hamas’ terrorist invasion and brutal murder and kidnapping of innocent Israeli citizens on October 7, 2023, should serve as a stark and lasting reminder of the dangers of Biden’s radical Middle Eastern policy agenda. The Biden Administration’s willingness to placate the radical Left through the restart of PA aid and the subsidizing of Palestinian terror has made the Middle East – and the world – significantly worse and more dangerous. Rest assured that the ACLJ will continue to press the Biden Administration at every opportunity to force them to uphold the TFA, end terrorist subsidies, and ensure that the Biden Administration respects the interests of American citizens and our greatest ally, Israel.