Senate panel approves bill to cut off US aid to Palestinians

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would suspend U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it stops rewarding Palestinians who kill American and Israeli citizens.

Members of the Republican-led panel voted 16-5 to pass the measure, which is sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and the committee's chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Corker said the Palestinian Authority allots monthly stipends of as much as $3,500 to Palestinians who commit acts of violence and to their families. The amount of the payment depends on the length of the jail sentence they receive for the crime.

"To me, it's almost a definition of a war criminal," Corker said of the payments.

The bill is named for Taylor Force, an MBA student at Vanderbilt University and a West Point graduate who was visiting Israel in March 2016 when he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian. Force was from Lubbock, Texas.

Graham said the Palestinian Authority praised Force's killer as a "heroic martyr" and he's termed the payments "pay to slay."

"Taylor was an American hero who was brutally murdered at the hands of terrorists," Graham said in a statement. "Yet instead of condemning this horrific attack - and so many others like it - the Palestinian Authority rewards terrorists. "

The Trump administration's budget request for fiscal 2018 includes roughly $260 million for economic development and law enforcement programs in the West Bank and Gaza.