Trump's Middle East Diplomacy Is Complicated by Palestinian Terror Incitement

(Washington Post) Josh Rogin - The Trump administration's budding efforts to establish a new Middle East diplomatic process are about to run into calls in Congress to cancel U.S. aid to the Palestinians because of payments made to militants who attack Israelis. On the agenda of White House Israel affairs adviser Jason Greenblatt, who is headed to the region this week, is whether the U.S. and Israeli governments should raise the pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop paying the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed after attacking Israeli or American civilians, a practice both governments believe incentivizes violence. Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are pushing legislation that would cut off all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, more than $300 million in fiscal year 2016, unless the PLO ceases rewarding the families of attackers. The bill is named after Taylor Force, a former Army officer who was stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian attacker while on a student trip to Israel. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee for foreign operations, argues that withholding U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority is the only way to get Abbas' attention and pressure him to dismantle a sprawling bureaucracy dedicated to compensating families of Palestinians involved in attacks. Even some longtime advocates of Palestinian institution-building are now on board with defunding. "We have been doing the same thing for decades, and it isn't working to change Palestinian political culture, and that political culture has to change if we want peace," said Elliott Abrams, a former White House and State Department official. An Israeli embassy official told me that the government thinks it very important to shine a spotlight on the issue, especially as the peace process gets going again. "You can't pay terrorists and support peace."

2017-03-13 00:00:00

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