Ted Cruz, Republican Senators Say Biden Funding to Palestinians Violates Anti-terror Law

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and seventeen other Republican Senators wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Thursday, objecting to the Biden administration’s plan to spend $250 million on the Palestinians, arguing that the proposal violates anti-terror law.

As Breitbart News noted Wednesday:

The Biden administration announced $250 million in spending Wednesday on the Palestinians, despite a 2018 law that prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from supporting the Palestinian Authority while it pays stipends and pensions to terrorists and their families.

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law, which prevents the U.S. from providing economic support and other funding to the Palestinian Authority while it continues to pay the families of deceased terrorists, or to pay terrorists in Israeli prisons — a policy referred to by critics as “pay-for-slay.” The Palestinian leadership, having refused to end the payments, lost U.S. funding. Trump also cut funding to the UNRWA because of concerns that it has supported terror. The Taylor Force Act allows for a limited set of humanitarian exemptions, such as funding for vaccination programs.

Blinken claimed that “All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law,” but did not explain how the funding would comply with the Taylor Force Act. He also did not provide any evidence of reforms within the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA, nor did he mention any Palestinian effort to discourage terror or to stop incitement against Israel or Jews.

In the letter, Cruz and his collegues note that the Biden administration’s funding violates the Taylor Force Act because it is being used for public services, freeing money in the Palestinian Authority (PA) budget to continue supporting terrorists:

On March 18, the State Department transmitted an unpublicized report to Congress pursuant to its obligations under the TFA [Taylor Force Act], which confirmed that the PA has in recent years funneled hundreds of millions of dollars toward terrorists and their families, and that in 2019 alone the PA expressed its intention to spend approximately $342.6 million on such rewards.

On March 19, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report finding that for the fiscal years 2015-2019, when USAID was distributing Palestinian assistance, USAID “did not consistently ensure” that those grants would not be passed along to terrorist groups and terrorists. The GAO recommended that, should funding resume, USAID should “(1) verify prime awardees have procedures to ensure compliance with requirements before making subawards and (2) conduct post-award compliance reviews in time to make corrections before the awards end.” It also noted that “USAID agreed with the recommendations.”

The notification describes new assistance that would go towards, inter alia, “municipal roads,” “internal roads, sidewalks, safe and designated bus parking lots, and driving routes,” “reservoirs, pump stations, water distribution and transmission networks,” “basic commodities,” “emergency preparedness,” “community initiatives,” “safe spaces to engage in community initiatives,” and “building the resilience of the Palestinians to climate change and strengthening their adaptation to climate change.”

These activities are the governance responsibility of the PA, and Congress prohibited American assistance to such activities against the backdrop of the PA using its available resources for pay-for-slay programs. In fact, Congress explicitly and narrowly enumerated in TFA what Palestinian governance programs should nevertheless still receive assistance: wastewater projects, childhood vaccination programs, and payments to East Jerusalem hospitals. The programs described in the March 26 USAID notification do not fit into those exceptions and so likely violate the TFA.

The State Department’s announcement of funding to the Palestinians on Wednesday came after weeks of speculation that the Biden administration was spending the money in secret to avoid public scrutiny or potential legal challenges to the policy.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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