RELEASE: Bipartisan Group of 50 to Administration: Negotiate an End to Martyr Payments to Terrorists

Palestinian Authority Continues “Pay for Slay” Program

Jul 18, 2023
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, July 18, 2023, a bipartisan group of 50 Members of Congress, 30 Democrats and 20 Republicans — led by Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) — wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking the State Department to update Congress on the status of negotiating an end to the “Pay for Slay” program. They also urged the Administration to continue to raise this issue with Palestinian officials. — Today, July 18, 2023, a bipartisan group of 50 Members of Congress, 30 Democrats and 20 Republicans — led by Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) — wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking the State Department to update Congress on the status of negotiating an end to the “Pay for Slay” program. They also urged the Administration to continue to raise this issue with Palestinian officials.

For years, the Palestinian Authority’s Martyrs’ Fund has rewarded deadly acts of terrorism with monetary payments. This depraved practice incentivizes terror — the deadlier the attack, the more money families of terrorists receive. These payments cost the Palestinian Authority more than $300 million annually, at 8% of its budget. Palestinian officials have made it clear that the Palestinian Authority will not stop funding martyr payments to the families of terrorists.

This letter comes ahead of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress.

The signatory list of 50 bipartisan Members includes Reps. Gottheimer (NJ-5), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Elissa Slotkin (MI-7), Michael Waltz (FL-6), Jake Auchincloss (MA-4), Claudia Tenney (NY-24), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Kathy Manning (NC-6), Tom Kean, Jr. (NJ-7), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Jim Costa (CA-21), Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Grace Meng (NY-6), Robert Menendez (NJ-8), Dan Meuser (PA-9), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Brian Mast (FL-21), Angie Craig (MN-2), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Mike Gallagher (WI-8), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Bruce Westerman (AR-4), Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Patrick Ryan (NY-18), Wiley Nickel (NC-13), Darren Soto (FL-9), David Scott (GA-13), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Susie Lee (NV-3), Brad Schneider (IL-10), David Trone (MD-6), Bill Johnson (OH-6), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Jason Smith (MO-8), Don Davis (NC-1), David Valadao (CA-22), David Joyce (OH-14), John James (MI-10), Blake Moore (UT-1), Mike Thompson (CA-4), Andrew Garbarino (NY-2), Hillary Scholten (MI-3), Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), and Ted Lieu (CA-36).

“For some Palestinians, terrorism literally pays. As you know, the Palestinian Authority has for decades provided financial compensation and other benefits to families of terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons and ‘martyrs’ killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis,” the Members of Congress wrote in a letter to Secretary Blinken. “The Palestinian Authority has clearly continued down the path of more hatred, violence, and terror, without regard for the damage inflicted, or for their role in diminishing the prospects for peace. But, so long as they pay citizens to murder civilians, they will do so without benefiting from the support of United States taxpayers. We know that the Administration shares the view that support for terrorism and the Palestinians’ characterization of the martyr payment system as a form of social welfare is unacceptable.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

July 18, 2023

The Honorable Antony Blinken 

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW 

Washington, D.C. 20451

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We write to you at a time of great instability in Israel and the West Bank. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed disturbing violence in the region as innocent civilians in Israel fall victim to terrorist attacks. Since the start of the year, cold-blooded murders of Israelis have been celebrated by perpetrators and supporters of Palestinian terror. Deeply concerned by the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to condemn these senseless killings, and in particular, their ongoing incentivizing of terror through the egregious “pay for slay” program, we ask that you report to Congress on ongoing efforts to end this practice.

For some Palestinians, terrorism literally pays. As you know, the Palestinian Authority has for decades provided financial compensation and other benefits to families of terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons and “martyrs” killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. These payments cost the PA more than $300 million annually, at 8% of its budget. In an attempt to reform this practice, the U.S. ended direct budgetary support to the PA in 2014. The PA refused to change its behavior, and, in 2018, Congress passed the bipartisan Taylor Force Act. In an effort to cut off “pay for slay” at the source, many of us helped pass this much-needed, bipartisan legislation that prohibits U.S. assistance to the West Bank directly benefiting the PA.

In January 2023, following an attack by a Palestinian terrorist that killed 7 in a Jerusalem synagogue, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the carnage by handing out sweets, blasting festive music from their cars, and lighting fireworks. Days earlier, Akram Rajoub, the mayor of Jenin, said that the “PA will not stop the transfer of funds…President Abbas made it clear that the Palestinian Authority will not stop funding the families of our martyrs even if we are down to the last penny.” Lone-wolf and organized attacks show little sign of stopping, and know no bounds. In late February, a Palestinian terrorist killed Columbia University graduate Elan Ganeles, a native of Connecticut. In early April, a Palestinian terrorist killed British-Israeli mother Lucy Dee and her two daughters in an ambush in the West Bank. Those behind these heinous acts are lauded by Palestinian society, and it is abundantly clear that these payments continue to reward and incentivize terror.

The Palestinian Authority has clearly continued down the path of more hatred, violence, and terror, without regard for the damage inflicted, or for their role in diminishing the prospects for peace. But, so long as they pay citizens to murder civilians, they will do so without benefiting from the support of United States taxpayers. We know that the Administration shares the view that support for terrorism and the Palestinians’ characterization of the martyr payment system as a form of social welfare is unacceptable. Yet, five years after the Taylor Force Act was signed into law, the PA continues to bolster the Martyrs’ Fund. To maintain a political horizon in support of a viable two-state solution, the PA cannot continue this depraved practice. U.S.-Palestinian ties have improved in recent years, and the Biden Administration is uniquely positioned to change the status quo.

As such, we encourage the State Department to update Congress on the status of negotiating an end to the “pay for slay” program, and urge the Administration to continue to raise this issue with Palestinian officials. The United States is a trusted regional partner, and must utilize this unique position to bring an end to a system that has harmed so many.

Sincerely,

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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