US set to cut funding for Palestinians over 'martyr payments'

US set to cut funding for Palestinians over 'martyr payments'
2 min read
22 March, 2018
US lawmakers say the funding cuts will continue unless the Palestinian Authority ends its controversial "martyr payments" to families of those killed by Israeli authorities.
Senator Lindsey Graham after attending a bi-partisan meeting in Washington [Getty]
US lawmakers are set to pass legislation to sharply reduce aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless it scraps "martyr payments" for families of militants killed or jailed by Israeli authorities, Reuters reported.

The measure, known as the Taylor Force Act, is part of a major spending bill released on Wednesday. It is named after a US military veteran was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian while visiting in Israel in 2016.

Israeli police killed Force's attacker, and his family receives a monthly payment from the PA. These "martyr payments" can reach up to $3,500 per month.

The US Congress reached an agreement on the omnibus spending bill on Wednesday, which they hope will become law by Friday night.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the bill. Force's parents live in South Carolina, Graham's home state. 

"Passage of the Taylor Force Act will give us much needed leverage with the Palestinians to push back on this outrageous policy," Graham said in a statement on Wednesday.

While US lawmakers are generally staunch Israel supporters, the Taylor Force Act had been previously held up by some members of Congress who thought aid cuts would lead to unrest and instability in the Palestinian territories.

The Act comes on the heels of the Trump administration's decision to cut funding to the UN relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA). In January, the US administration said it would withold $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. 

But UN officials at the time said the cut was closer to $300 million, because US officials had led the UN to believe it would get $365 million in 2018.

Most observers say the UNRWA cuts are meant to pressure Palestinian officials to end their boycott of the Trump administration, which they launched after the December announcement the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

As for the PA cuts, officials say these payments are needed to support the relatives of those killed or imprisoned by Israel for fighting against the occupation.

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