It’s an old saying in government: you subsidize something, you get more of it. You tax it, you get less of it. There are a host of examples of this in action, from higher education, to business taxes, and there’s a broad debate over whether or not the federal government should be more or less involved in these areas. But the United States is also indirectly subsidizing activities that, if more widely known, would be repugnant to all Americans. In particular, through our aid to the Palestinian Authority, we are in effect paying for terrorism.
It’s been estimated that ten percent of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is paid to families of jailed and ‘martyred’ terrorists. Since the mid-1990s, the United States has committed over $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal aid to the Palestinians. Just last year, American taxpayers paid $442 million in aid to the Palestinians. That works out in essence to $44 million in U.S. taxpayer money being handed over to terrorists and their families.
Last summer in front the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Yigal Carmon, the president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, gave a testimony explaining this pressing, persistent problem: the financial and other support given by the Palestinian Authority to those who have continued their terrorist activities.
According to Carmon, the Palestinian Authority earmarked $137.8 million in the 2016 budget for prisoners convicted of terrorism and their families, and $172.5 million for the families of “martyrs.” He added that they have been using money “granted by donor countries for this purpose, and by doing so, has made them complicit in encouraging terrorism as well.”
While our laws already allow for proportional reductions in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority based on the amount of payments they make to terrorists and their families, the Palestinian Authority has circumvented this restriction by transferring the funds through multiple groups affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Simply, taxpayers deserve more oversight. This is why Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and I introduced the No Bonuses for Terrorists Act last Wednesday. Our bill would provide the strongest protection yet against further U.S. taxpayer-subsidized payments to terrorists by requiring the Secretary of State to certify to Congress that both the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization have completely stopped the payment of any benefits to terrorists or their families.
If the Secretary of State cannot give us reassurance the money isn’t being used for the rewarding terrorism, the funds would be automatically redirected to strengthening Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. That technology has saved thousands of Israeli lives by shooting down short-range rockets that are launched periodically into cities like Tel-Aviv and Ashdod.
Just last month, news broke that the Obama administration sent $224 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority over congressional objections. While we may have good intentions with our aid, like economic development and humanitarian purposes, the reality of our aid to Palestine is much uglier.
The Palestinian Authority has notoriously lacked transparency with their annual budgets and I don’t expect this to change any time soon. But Congress has the power of the purse and is ultimately responsible for where taxpayer dollars go. So if any additional funds are sent to the Palestinians, Americans should at least be confident that their tax dollars are not subsidizing terror.
Congressman Ted Budd represents the people of North Carolina’s 13th District congressional district.