Senate Foreign Relations Committee Examines Bill Named for Slain Vanderbilt University Graduate Student
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at a hearing to consider the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would restrict U.S. economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza until the Palestinian Authority (PA) stops paying perpetrators of terrorism. The bill is named after a Vanderbilt University graduate student who was killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv last year. The committee heard testimony from Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle East affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Daniel B. Shapiro, distinguished visiting fellow at The Institute for National Security Studies in Israel.
“I would like to again recognize Mr. Stuart Force, who has been in our office, Taylor Force’s father, who is with us. I know your wife was unable to be here but has been here on many occasions.
“Taylor, a West Point graduate, veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an MBA student at Vanderbilt University, was killed over a year ago by a Palestinian terrorist while in Tel Aviv studying entrepreneurship.
“Mr. Force, again, thank you for being here, and thank you for the work you have done in the hope that other parents will not have to suffer the grief that you and your wife share. We are deeply sorry for your loss.
“Again, I want to thank Senator Graham for his work, and I think he stated well the reason for this legislation and why we are having this hearing today.
“The Palestinian Authority, as a government, has created a system in law that pays Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails more money if they have a longer sentence.
“I read an affidavit that shared testimony by prisoners that made it clear they attempted to commit crimes that were more heinous to serve more time so that they would get more money for their family.
“The laws don’t stop there, but depending on the length of the sentence, the PA will pay for tuition, health care, and even offer a government position to related prisoners.
“For example, if you’re a Palestinian sentenced to two years in an Israeli jail for committing violence or acts of terrorism, you get paid $400 a month. If you get sentenced to 30 years, you get $3,500 a month. If you serve five years or more and are released, you get a lifetime salary.
“Rather than welfare, this is a Palestinian Authority-sponsored program that incentivizes terrorism.
“The problem we face is that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people also benefit from U.S. economic assistance, assistance that has helped millions of people and has long been supported by the Israeli government.
“But assistance is money and money is fungible, and although we don’t provide direct budgetary assistance to the PA, we do pay their debts. We also pay for a range of projects that the PA would otherwise fund themselves.
“That money frees up resources that are being used to incentivize terrorism.
“The PA has an easy option to stop compensating terrorists and their families.
“I believe they haven’t taken that path because from the Palestinian perspective, these payments recognize an individual’s commitment to resistance.
“But when a government recognizes terrorism as a valid form of political resistance, how can they possibly be ready for peace?
“So, we face a fairly basic question. Should U.S. taxpayer dollars support a government that incentivizes terrorism? I believe the answer is ‘no.’
“Understanding how we effectively eliminate financial support for the PA by tailoring our assistance is a little harder. And we are going to have testimony to that end today.
“I hope our witnesses can help us consider different options to ensure assistance that goes to directly to the Palestinian people does not also benefit their government.
“Again, I would like to thank Mr. Force, Senator Graham, and our outstanding witnesses for being here today. I look forward to your testimony and responses to our questions.”
Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.