Experts: To Fight Terror, Palestinian Authority Must Define It

Faced with the loss of funds if the Taylor Force Act becomes law, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must clearly outlaw terrorism as an important first step to show that the PA is seriously working to fight terror, two experts wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.

Jonathan Schanzer and Grant Rumley, respectively the senior vice president and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote that it would be correct for Congress to reject the PA’s excuses for continuing to pay stipends to families of terrorists and that United States lawmakers should continue to work towards the passage of the Taylor Force Act.  Both authors say that to show how seriously the PA is taking Congress, Abbas and the PA should take the initiative to fight terror by making it illegal.

The PA has arrested terrorists and disrupted terror cells, but usually this is done under the authority of presidential decrees for “harming public security,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, or Jordanian military codes.

The State Department, Schanzer and Rumley noted, determined that while the PA has outlawed acts of terror, it has no laws on the books “specifically tailored to counterterrorism.”

If the PA would introduce and pass legislation outlawing terrorism, Schanzer and Rumley argued, they “would carry greater weight and almost certainly garner more respect from the Palestinian people.” However, the Palestinian parliament is non-functioning due to infighting, so the chances of passing such legislation are low.

Despite taking actions against terrorists and even condemning terror attacks against Israel, “the PA continues to pay stipends to people convicted of such attacks.”

Part of the Taylor Force Act, which is on track to be passed before the end of the year, requires the Secretary of State to certify twice a year that the PA is “taking credible and verifiable steps to end acts of violence against Israeli citizens and United States citizens.”

Criminalizing terror would only be a first step.

“If Palestinian leaders continued to condemn American lawmakers for considering cuts to aid, and if the PA kept paying prisoners convicted of terrorism, then the exercise would mean little. Congress would have every right to withhold funds, and the Taylor Force Act could be merely the beginning,” Schanzer and Rumley wrote in their conclusion, “but if Mr. Abbas truly wants to take an alternative path, defining terrorism would be a start.”

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr]